Rehabilitation Facility Fired Employee Because of Her Need for Additional Leave to Recover from Caesarean Section, Federal Agency Charged
Dallas-based Greenhouse Outpatient Center and its parent company, American Addiction Centers, agreed to damages of $146,613 and provide other relief to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
The Dallas rehabilitation center had granted the pregnant employee, a behavioral health technician, a 30-day leave of absence for childbirth. After the employee delivered the baby by caesarean section, which requires abdominal surgery, the employee’s doctor indicated she needed eight weeks to recover before returning to work. Human Resources, however, told the employee her position could not be held open beyond the 30 days, and her employment was terminated, according to the suit. In contrast, the defendants had granted leave during the past 30 days to non-pregnant employees for reasons unrelated to pregnancy.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy in the workplace. In this case, the EEOC sought back pay, plus compensatory and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief, including an order barring similar violations in the future.
The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division, Case No 3:19-CV-02302, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement.
The two-year consent decree settling the suit, entered by U.S. District Judge Sidney Fitzwater on May 19, 2021, prohibits future discrimination and retaliation and, in addition to the monetary relief, requires the employer to provide annual training regarding pregnancy and other forms of discrimination, and impose discipline, up to termination, on any manager who discriminates based on pregnancy or permits such conduct to occur under his or her supervision. The decree also contains a provision noting that the defendants implemented a paid parental leave policy and general leave policy, and modified their existing personal leave policy, effective January 1. Among several changes reflected in these policies, the defendants’ new leave policies allow for leave in excess of 30 days.
“It is important that employers understand that pregnant employees must be given the same benefits as non-pregnant employees,” said Meaghan Kuelbs, senior trial attorney in the EEOC’s Dallas District Office. “As a result of this lawsuit, American Addiction now has a policy that will ensure equal treatment of pregnant employees who require leave related to their pregnancy or pregnancy-related condition.”
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