Nursing Home Terminated Pregnant Nursing Supervisor After Requesting Lifting Accommodation. Unlawful Medical Inquiry Conducted, and Refused Rehire Because of Her Disability, Federal Agency Says
PHILADELPHIA, PA- Nursing home Landis Homes Retirement Community, and its managing entity, Landis Communities, violated federal law when they failed to accommodate a pregnant nursing supervisor, terminated her because of her pregnancy and in retaliation for her reasonable accommodation request, and later refused to rehire her because of her pregnancy and disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced today.
Amy Potts had worked as a RN/Charge Nurse and Campus Supervisor for the nursing home for eight years at its facility in Litz, Pa., when she requested to lift no more than 25 pounds following a surgical procedure relating to her disability, a reproductive system impairment, EEOC says. The nursing home accommodated lifting restrictions for non-pregnant employees but refused to accommodate Potts and instead placed her on indefinite leave because of her pregnancy and disability, according to the suit.
EEOC charges that the nursing home told Potts she could reapply for employment after she had her baby and no longer had any restrictions. When Potts reapplied for nursing positions for which she was qualified, the nursing home told her she had been terminated, asked her to provide medical documentation regarding her lifting restrictions, and then refused to rehire her.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), which prohibits employment discrimination based on sex. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) amended Title VII to make it illegal to discriminate against a woman because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, as amended, makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of disability and requires employers to provide a reasonable accommodation. EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Landis Communities and Landis Homes Retirement Community, Civil Action No. 5:15-cv-05282) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
EEOC Philadelphia District Office Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence said, "Employers run afoul of federal law if they abruptly place a pregnant employee who requests a reasonable accommodation on indefinite leave or terminate her. Instead, employers should talk with the employee to see how they can make workplace modifications, such as accommodating a lifting restriction, to allow her to continue working and supporting herself and her family."
"Fairness and federal law mandate that pregnant employees should be treated the same as other employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work," added Philadelphia District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. "In this case, the nursing home accommodated non-pregnant employees who had work restrictions, but treated Amy Potts differently because of her pregnancy. That's simply unjust and against the law."
One of the six national priorities identified by the Commission's Strategic Enforcement Plan is for the Commission to address emerging and developing issues in equal employment law, including issues involving the ADA and pregnancy-related limitations, among other possible issues.
Legal staff of the Philadelphia District Office of EEOC prosecute cases out of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, parts of New Jersey, Ohio, and Virginia, and the District of Columbia.
EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the Commission is available at its website, www.eeoc.gov.