"Still Easy Pickins!" Healthcare Providers And Pregnancy and Disability Discrimination
Well, another healthcare provider nabbed by the EEOC for allegedly violating the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”), an amendment to the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Add this to the numerous such lawsuits brought against heathcare providers under the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”).
Once again, a new lawsuit makes it time to revisit the EEOC’s apparent targeting of healthcare professionals and companies for alleged disability and pregnancy law violations. After noting this trend for some time, it’s so obvious and easy to understand why the EEOC does this — and easy for an employer to avoid.
I have posed the question frequently here: “What is it about health and medical care facilities that brings down the heavy hand of the EEOC so often, alleging ADA and pregnancy discrimination? Is it that the helping profession somehow has an innate bias against the disabled and against pregnant women, and discriminates more than other employers?”
Not likely. More likely that:
the EEOC sees such health care folks as fat, juicy targets — for example, accusing the helping profession, which is there to treat the sick, disabled and pregnant, of disability discrimination surely attracts the inevitable sanctimonious media attention. Alleging that doctors discriminate on the basis of disability against the very folks that they are there to minister is sure to bolster a somewhat battered EEOC image.
Healthcare Providers Are “Low Hanging Fruit”
The EEOC just sued a North Carolina rehabilitation and nursing center under the PDA. It seems that the center offers light duty or job modifications to accommodate the temporary restrictions of certified nursing assistants (“CNA”) who were injured at work, but refuses to grant similar accommodations or modifications to CNAs who experience pregnancy-related work restrictions.
In this particular case, it is alleged that a CNA told the center that she had pregnancy-related lifting restrictions, but she was refused an accommodation – which the company could easily provide – “the company had mechanical lifting devices to lift patients and did not prohibit CNAs from seeking assistance from co-workers to manually lift patients.”
The inevitable EEOC press release noted that “Employers must generally treat the work restrictions of pregnant employees just like those of non-pregnant employees. Companies must be careful not to violate federal anti-discrimination law when they pick and choose which employees to accommodate.”
For The EEOC It’s Like “Shooting Fish In A Barrel”
I noted earlier this year that a Dallas home healthcare company agreed to pay $25,000 for allegedly discriminating against an employee with bipolar disorder by firing her when she requested leave to see her health care provider.
Here’s the EEOC regional attorney stating why (I think) the EEOC targets healthcare providers – the “helping profession” is so juicy to sue:
“We would expect that employers in the health care field would be keenly aware of the importance of supporting the medical needs of their employees by allowing reasonable time that may be required for treatment.”
Who wouldn’t agree?
A North Dakota hospital recently settled a pregnancy and disability discrimination lawsuit for $95,000. It allegedly “refused to provide light-duty work to a pregnant nurse who had lifting restrictions because of a pregnancy-related health condition. Instead, it fired her, although it provided light-duty positions to nurses injured on the job.”
Sounds just like the new case. … (sigh!)
Employers must engage in an interactive process with a requesting employee who is pregnant or who has a disability to seek a reasonable accommodation that is not unduly burdensome to you.
It isn’t all that difficult (and usually not particularly expensive) to arrive at a “reasonable accommodation” – at least compared to the cost of litigation and settlement. And in the new case – the accommodation was already being made for other employees.
And if you are a heath care or medical facility, be aware – be very aware – that if you fail to do this you are inviting EEOC intervention, if not taunting the EEOC to target you!