Company Refused to Provide Light Duty to Pregnant Workers, Federal Agency Charges
SEATTLE - Nationwide geriatric care giant Life Care Centers of America, Inc. and its affiliate, South Hill Operations, LLC, doing business as "Life Care Center of South Hill," violated federal law when it denied light duty to a pregnant employee and then in effect fired her, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the EEOC's suit, Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Nair Parsons, who worked for Life Care Centers., informed her supervisors of her pregnancy in June 2016, requested light duty for the last part of her pregnancy in the form of a lifting restriction, and also supplied a doctor's note in support of her request. Parsons' supervisors denied her light duty request, indicated that Life Care only provides light in Puyallup, Wash duty to those employees injured on the job, and then placed her on involuntary, unpaid leave. Life Care supervisors told Parsons to reapply for a CNA job once she was ready to return to unrestricted duty, which amounted to firing her, the EEOC said.
The EEOC's suit also claimed that Life Care had a longstanding policy or practice going back to September 2015 of not providing light duty to pregnant employees even though it provided light duty to similarly abled non-pregnant employees that affected a class of similarly situated employees.
Refusing to provide light duty to a pregnant employee when similarly abled non-pregnant employees are able to get light duty violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). After first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process, the EEOC filed the lawsuit (EEOC v. Life Care Centers of America, Inc. and South Hill Operations LLC d/b/a Life Care Center of South Hill in Puyallup, CIV# 2:18-cv-01411.) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, and seeks monetary damages on behalf of Parsons, Cook and a class of similarly aggrieved females in Washington, training on anti-discrimination laws, posting of anti-discrimination notices at the worksite, and other injunctive relief.
"Federal law requires an employer to provide light duty to pregnant employees if the employer provides light duty to employees who have comparable work restrictions who happen not to be pregnant," said Nancy Sienko, director of the EEOC's Seattle Field Office. "Despite the multiple ways that Life Care could have helped Ms. Parsons with her lifting restrictions, they chose to send her home instead - which is unlawful as well as cruel and counterproductive."
EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney John Stanley added, "Employers cannot ignore a pregnant employee's light duty request when they are receptive to those of non-pregnant employees. Accommodating pregnancy-related limitations under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act is a key component of the EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan."
According to company information, Life Care Centers is a nationwide network of over 236 geriatric health care service providers with operations in over 35 states, and had over $10.3 million in net sales in 2015, the year in which Parsons last worked for the co-defendants in Puyallup.
Individuals with information about any pregnant employee who was denied light duty by Life Care Centers since September 2015, or was treated similarly to Parsons are encouraged to contact the EEOC at: LifeCarePDA@eeoc.gov .
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Additional information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.