EEOC announces settlement in pregnancy discrimination case

In Kentucky, employers with at least 15 employees may not discriminate in any term or condition of employment based on pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, according to applicable federal and state civil rights laws. Pregnant workers also have legal rights under unpaid leave laws and sometimes to reasonable accommodations in the workplace for pregnancy-related disability.

Employers must put pregnancy on the same level as other medical conditions

As explained on the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s website, if a pregnant employee faces physical limitations because of her pregnancy, she normally has the right to any short-term or temporary accommodations the employer gives other injured or ill employees. “For example, the employer may have to provide light duty, alternative assignments, disability leave, or unpaid leave to pregnant employees if it does so for other temporarily disabled employees,” notes the EEOC.

EEOC settles pregnancy discrimination lawsuit

This was the exact issue in a recent pregnancy discrimination suit the EEOC brought on behalf of a Washington certified nursing assistant (CNA) against her employer, a giant long-term health care provider for the elderly. The employer does business in at least 35 states.

The employee requested that she be limited to lifting only up to 15 pounds at the end stages of pregnancy, which the employer denied, even though it provided such accommodations to employees with work-related injuries. The employer put her on unpaid leave instead against the worker’s wishes. Allegedly, the employer told her to reapply for her job when she could work without restrictions, “which she understood to mean that she was fired.”

The EEOC – the federal agency that is primarily responsible for enforcing federal anti-discrimination in employment laws – and the defendant settled the case in a three-year consent decree. The employer agreed to pay the employee $170,000 in lost wages and other compensation. It also will train Washington state employees, management, supervisors and human resources staff about compliance with Title VII and its Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the main federal law protecting pregnant employees.

A Kentucky employer in need of information and guidance about compliance with federal and state protections for pregnant workers – or who is facing a complaint or lawsuit based on this issue – should consult an experienced lawyer.


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