Hospital withdrew job offer for pregnancy-related disability, federal agency charged
NEWARK, NJ – Saint Clare’s Health, a division of Prime Healthcare Services that operates two hospitals in Morris County, New Jersey, will pay $77,550 and provide other remedies to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
According to the EEOC lawsuit, Saint Clare’s Health hired a pregnant candidate to file for a per diem EMS dispatcher position at its Dover, New Jersey, facility. A few days before her start date, however, the employee was hospitalized and diagnosed with preeclampsia, a pregnancy-related impairment affecting the circulatory system. The employee then contacted the Saint Clare Human Resources department about her diagnosis and asked what steps she should take next. Saint Clare’s Health responded by withdrawing its job offer, although it only needed a minor accommodation of delaying its start date by several weeks.
Such conduct violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers to undertake with applicants and employees to provide reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities in the absence of undue hardship and prohibits employers to take adverse action against applicants and qualified employees because of their disability. The EEOC filed an action in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey (EEOC v. Prime Healthcare Services – Saint Clare’s, LLC d/b/a Saint Clare’s Health, Civil Action No. 21-cv-02055) after having attempted for the first time to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. This case was argued by EEOC Trial Attorneys Edumin Corrales and Caitlin D. Brown, supervised by EEOC Trial Attorney Kimberly A. Cruz.
The consent decree settling the lawsuit provides for a total of $77,550 in lost wages and other damages, as well as significant non-monetary relief designed to prevent further discrimination. These provisions include an injunction prohibiting Saint Clare’s Health from discriminating against employees and applicants for employment on the basis of a disability, including pregnancy-related disabilities; updates to internal company policies; and mandatory training for Saint Clare’s Health employees on federal anti-discrimination law. The company must also report to the EEOC any internal complaints of discrimination or retaliation related to disability that it receives within the next two and a half years.
“It is essential that employers understand that the law requires them to provide reasonable accommodation to applicants with disabilities so that they can perform the essential functions of the job,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Jeffrey Burstein. “We are delighted that Saint Clare’s Health worked with the EEOC early in the litigation process to restore the integrity of the injured employee.
EEOC District Manager Judy Keenan added, “The ADA provides women with pregnancy-related disabilities the same right to reasonable accommodation as other employees with non-pregnancy-related disabilities. Targeted OEE training and anti-discrimination policy reviews that highlight pregnancy-related disabilities are concrete steps toward protecting applicants and employees from disability-related discrimination.
The New York District Office of the EEOC is responsible for handling charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York , northern New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.