Company Failed to Provide Disabled Pregnant Employee With Accommodation and Subsequently Fired Her While on Maternity Leave, Federal Agency Charged
AUSTIN, Texas - E-MDS, Inc., an Austin-based business which provides cloud computer software and management tools for doctor's offices, including electronic health records, violated federal law when it failed to accommodate a disabled pregnant employee and subsequently fired her because of her pregnancy and her disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (Commission) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to EEOC's lawsuit, the employee had heart arrhythmia and an adrenal gland condition that substantially limited her circulatory function. She was subjected to unlawful discrimination when E-MDS discharged her from her position, client service analyst, because of her sex, pregnancy and disability, particularly based on the refusal by E-MDS to provide leave as a reasonable accommodation to her physical impairment as required by the ADA.
The EEOC said E-MDS selected the employee for termination not for merit-based reasons but simply because she was on extended maternity and disability leave. The company claimed it needed to reduce its workforce. The pregnant employee's direct supervisor had apparently selected someone else for layoff. The agency asserts that the pregnant employee with a disability known to the company was more qualified and better suited for retention.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects employees from discrimination based on their disabilities and requires employers to provide employees with disabilities with reasonable accommodations unless doing so would be an undue hardship for the employer. Additionally, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibits employers from discriminating against employees due to their pregnancies.
EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. E-MDS, Inc., Civil Action No. 1-15-cv-00860) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages for the victim, as well as injunctive relief.
"Management chose to fire a good employee simply because she was on maternity and disability leave," said EEOC San Antonio Field Office Senior Trial Attorney Patrick Connor. "This woman should not have to lose her livelihood because of her pregnancy and medical condition."
Eduardo Juarez, supervisory trial attorney for EEOC's San Antonio Field Office, said, "A worker dealing with pregnancy and another physical challenge has enough to deal with without being unfairly and unlawfully deprived of her livelihood. Federal laws protect such people, and EEOC is here to enforce them."
One of the six national priorities identified by EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP) is for the Commission to address emerging and developing issues in equal employment law, including issues involving the intersection between the ADA and pregnancy-related limitations.
EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.