All New York employers must be mindful of their legal duty to avoid engaging in any acts that may qualify as disability or pregnancy discrimination. Not only can the affected employees sue the employer privately for monetary damages, but government regulators charged with enforcing employment laws can take separate action, which may result in significant fines and additional penalties.
Employer Allegedly Fired Employees Who Requested Medical Leave
For example, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently announced that a Buffalo-based operator of nursing homes agreed to pay $465,000 to settle allegations of pregnancy and disability discrimination. This money will go to compensate victims of the alleged discrimination, the EEOC said. The settlement, approved by a federal judge on October 18, also requires the defendant to revise its corporate policies and training to ensure there are no future acts of illegal discrimination in the future.
According to the EEOC's original lawsuit, the defendant illegally fired a former food service supervisor. The employee became pregnant during the course of her employment and requested a medical leave of absence due to pregnancy-related complications. The EEOC said the defendant refused to grant leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, and instead only permitted a 30-day leave, during which time she was fired. The defendant then told the employee she should could be rehired within 30 days, but only “if she could do so without any medical restrictions.”
The EEOC cited several other examples of similar conduct, i.e. the defendant firing employees who could not work “without any medical restrictions.” In one case, the defendant refused a requested accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act for an employee who was medically limited to lifting no more than 15 pounds following surgery. As with the pregnant employee described above, the defendant insisted the employee could only return to work if there were no medical restrictions. When the employee complied with this demand, she was treated as a “new hire” and did not receive any previously accrued benefits or seniority rights.
As note above, the defendant agreed to pay $465,000 to resolve the EEOC's charges. Of this amount, $40,000 will go to the fired food service supervisor as damages for back pay. The remaining $425,000 will be placed into a settlement fund for other claimants who experienced disability or pregnancy discrimination. The EEOC will make a final determination as to which claimants are entitled to compensation within the next 18 months.
Contact a New York City Employment Discrimination Lawyer Today
As you can see, pregnancy and disability discrimination can prove costly for employers who think they can flout the law with impunity. If you have been fired or disciplined at work due to your medical condition, you may be entitled to compensation. Your first step should be to seek advice from a qualified New York employment law attorney. Contact the Law Offices of White, Nisar & Hilferty, LLP, today if you need assistance with any type of employment discrimination claim.