Nursing home and rehabilitation operator Symphony Deerbrook, LLC’s $400,000 payment and other relief to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) warns other health industry and other employers about the risk of imposing special pregnancy notice, doctors, release and testing requirements on pregnant employees.
In its lawsuit, the EEOC charged that Symphony implemented a policy requiring employees to inform the company of any pregnancy and to obtain a note from their doctor releasing them to work without restrictions. The EEOC also alleged that Symphony denied employees with pregnancy-related restrictions reasonable accommodations and terminated them though other employees with similar restrictions were provided accommodations.
The EEOC charged these actions violatesd the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 2000e(K) and 2000e-(2)(a)(1) and the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12112(d)(3)(C)(4)(a).
The Pregnancy Act prohibits employers from discrimination on the basis of pregnancy and requires that employers treat pregnant employees the same as other employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work.
The ADA which prohibits employee medical examinations that are not job related or consistent with business necessity.
The consent decree settling the suit requires Symphony to pay $400,000, which will be distributed among 11 affected employees. The two-and-a-half-year decree enjoins Symphony from discrimination on the basis of pregnancy in the future, including denying pregnant workers job modifications available to other similar employees and requiring pregnant employees to obtain doctor’s notes stating that they can work without restriction.
In 2021, Symphony sold the facility to Pearl of Joliet, who agreed for purposes of settlement to provide anti-discrimination training to all its employees at the facility, to post a notice about the resolution of the law lawsuit, and to report to EEOC certain types of information during the decree’s term. The EEOC has not alleged that Pearl engaged in any discrimination.
Suits and settlements like Symphony’s send a clear warning against discrimination based on pregnancy by health care providers and other employers. Healthcare and other organizations concerned about the safety of pregnant women working in particular positions should ask experienced legal counsel for assistance in managing the occupational health and safety risks, if any for pregnant or other employees without running afoul of discrimination prohibitions.
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About the Author
Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely-known for 35 plus years of health industry and other management work, public policy leadership and advocacy, coaching, teachings, and publications.
A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, Chair of the American Bar Association (“ABA”) International Section Life Sciences and Health Committee, Chair-Elect of the ABA TIPS Section Medicine & Law Committee, Past Chair of the ABA Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Agency Meeting with HHS-OCR, past chair of the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Ms. Stamer is most widely recognized for her decades of pragmatic, leading-edge work, scholarship and thought leadership on health and managed care and employer benefits legal, public policy and operational concerns in the healthcare, employer benefits, and insurance and financial services industries. She speaks and publishes extensively on HIPAA and other related compliance issues.
Ms. Stamer’s work throughout her career has focused heavily on working with health care and managed care, health and other employee benefit plan, insurance and financial services and other public and private organizations and their technology, data, and other service providers and advisors domestically and internationally with legal and operational compliance and risk management, performance and workforce management, regulatory and public policy and other legal and operational concerns.
For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here.
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