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Nursing and Rehab Center Sued for Refusing to Accommodate Pregnancy-based Lifting Restriction

April 23, 2018

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has sued PruittHealth-Raleigh, LLC, a Georgia corporation doing business as a nursing and rehabilitation center in Raleigh, North Carolina, alleging it violated federal law when it refused to accommodate the pregnancy-related lifting restriction of a certified nursing assistant (CNA) and forced her to resign.

According to the EEOC's lawsuit, PruittHealth offers light-duty or job modifications to accommodate the temporary restrictions of CNAs who are injured at work. However, the company refused to grant similar accommodations or modifications to a CNA who experienced a pregnancy-related work restriction. Specifically, the company refused to accommodate the employee’s pregnancy-related 20-pound lifting restriction. Instead, the company's assistant director of nursing and an HR representative forced her to resign or be fired. The rehabilitation center had lifting devices and transfer belts available at all relevant times to help lift patients, the EEOC said, and the employer did not prohibit CNAs from seeking the assistance of coworkers to lift patients manually.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits employers from discriminating against employees due to pregnancy, including pregnancy-related conditions. "Employers must generally treat the work restrictions of pregnant employees just like those of non-pregnant employees," said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District Office.

The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks injunctive relief, including policy changes at the company, as well as back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages for the complainant.