ACLU Settles Case of Nursing Assistant Pushed Out of Job While Pregnant

North Carolina Home Care Facility Adopts New Policy to Accommodate Pregnant Workers in Settlement Agreement

December 4, 2015 2:30 pm

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ASHEVILLE, N.C – The American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of North Carolina have reached settlement in a case filed on behalf of a certified nursing assistant who was pushed out of her job at a nursing home facility in Weaverville, North Carolina while pregnant with her third child.

The settlement with Sava Senior Care’s Brian Center comes in a complaint brought with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in December 2014 on behalf of Jaimie Cole. During her third trimester of pregnancy, Cole developed a high risk condition and provided her employer a doctor’s note recommending that she not lift more than 35 pounds. Because her job entailed helping patients in and out of bed and assisting them with bathing, Cole requested a temporary light duty assignment to maintain a healthy pregnancy.

Instead of treating her request the same as other workers temporarily unable to perform normal job duties, Cole was told by her supervisor that pregnant women “aren’t eligible for light duty,” and was forced to take five weeks of unpaid leave. Settlement in her case includes payment for lost wages and emotional distress, and Sava’s implementation of a new policy to make sure that pregnant workers get light duty and other accommodations on the same terms as other employees needing temporary job changes.

“No expecting mother should be forced to go without a paycheck when her family desperately depends on those funds to cover the costs of welcoming a new child,” Cole said. “I am pleased with the compensation in this settlement, but even more relieved that future Brian Center employees who become pregnant won’t have to drain their savings and checking accounts the way I did when placed on unpaid leave. The new policy is what fairness looks like.”

Cole’s case is one of several that have been settled since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last spring in Young v. UPS that employer policies denying women accommodations for pregnancy-related conditions, while providing the same accommodations to other workers with similar limitations, can violate sex discrimination laws. In August 2015, the ACLU settled a similar pregnancy discrimination case against Sava Senior Care, which allowed individual care facilities to adopt their own policies with regards to accommodating pregnant workers.

“Too many women have been forced to choose between their paycheck and a healthy pregnancy,” said Galen Sherwin, senior staff attorney in the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project. “In order to achieve an even playing field for working women, workplace policies must ensure women aren’t forced off the job when they become pregnant. This settlement represents an important step closer to that goal.”

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