What is it about health and medical care facilities and personnel that brings down the heavy hand of the EEOC so often alleging ADA and pregnancy discrimination? Is it that they have an innate bias against the disabled and pregnant women, and discriminate more than other employers?
Do Health Care People Violate the ADA and Pregnancy Act More Often Than Others?
Not likely, and we have seen nothing to substantiate this. So what is it?
Could it be — yes, could it be that the EEOC sees such health care folks as a target as big as a house? You know, can the helping profession, there to treat the sick, disabled and pregnant, stand up to the negative PR that a discrimination suit typically brings if it is alleged that they discriminated against the very folks that they are there to minister to?
If you have read our blog for awhile you know that in perhaps one in ten posts (jeez, is it that many?) we harangue about the easy pickins that health and medical care facilities make for the EEOC. As we say, they are the EEOC’s “low hanging fruit.”
So Why Do They Get Sued More Often Than Others?
Way back on October 1, 2012 we titled a post “EEOC Making An Example Of Health Care Industry As ADA Violators.” On February 26th, we said “Call it what you will, but ‘shooting fish in a barrel’ is our way of describing the EEOC’s clear targeting of health care providers for disability discrimination claims under the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”).”
See our post on December 13, 2013 entitled “When Will Medical Providers Learn Not To Be ‘Fish In A Barrel’ To Be Shot By The EEOC?,” and cases and commentary in our posts of August 3, 2013, September 6, 2013, and October 19, 2013 and January 9, 2014.”
On March 13, 2013 we also cautioned that “The EEOC is serious about pursuing discrimination cases filed under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) – very serious – especially if you fire a pregnant employee because of outdated myths or stereotypes or couched in the language of safety and health.
As to our speculation as to the EEOC’s motives for targeting the health care profession, we recently asked: “How do you think the public reacts to doctors and clinics, who are there to treat the sick and injured, being sued for allegedly discriminating against their own employees who are sick or injured? It is a PR bonanza for the EEOC — for example, in announcing that the EEOC just settled another of these cases, an EEOC attorney said that ‘A health care facility should especially understand the importance of non-discrimination regardless of disabilities.’”
On March 10th we found support for our speculation about the EEOC’s motives — from an EEOC official. He said that:
“Sometimes it looks like organizations engaged in the health care field or in the performance of other ‘good works’ consider it impossible for them to have discriminated — or to be challenged for having discriminated — particularly when it comes to the ADA. But our experience has been that all organizations, whatever their line of business and however they are organized, are vulnerable to falling into patterns or acts of discrimination if they do not consciously make compliance with federal anti-discrimination laws a priority. We are optimistic that the consent decree in this case will encourage that kind of compliance (emphasis added).”
A New Fish Gets Speared
Well, the EEOC just announced that it has sued another health care company, this time a national personal training company in California, alleging on behalf of a pregnant employee that she told the company that she was experiencing complications in her pregnancy and that her doctor recommended time off from work. The company approved her for medical leave, but then claimed that she abandoned her job, and fired her.
If you were the employer – whose clientele likely include a good proportion of women, would you like to hear the EEOC announce in a press release, as it did in this case: “This is a working mother’s nightmare. Ms. Nuno was fired from the job which she relied on to support herself, her daughter and the new baby on the way. Employers must understand their obligation to ensure that women are not punished for taking approved time off due to pregnancy.”
A Very Quick Settlement By A Law Firm
Although not a health and medical care facility, nonetheless a Texas personal injury law firm quickly agreed to settle another EEOC pregnancy suit – filed less than one month ago. The suit alleged that the firm had fired a women who had never received an “unsatisfactory” performance rating and, indeed, was rated “exceptional” in some reviews, after she told her supervisor that she was pregnant. She was “given” an unrequested leave of absence, and was asked when she wanted to leave.
She replied by email that she simply wanted “time to have my child and return back to work,” but was nonetheless was placed on a 60-day “performance improvement plan” and fired soon after for allegedly “not following established procedures for submitting records.”
The firm agreed to pay her $15,000 in back pay, and $45,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.