Road to Lawsuit Paved with Good Intentions

By Chance Hill

A federal district court in Alabama recently denied summary judgment to an employer in a Title VII pregnancy discrimination claim. The employee, a pregnant nurse working at a home for intellectually disabled individuals, was removed from a work schedule after revealing her “high-risk” pregnancy to her supervisor. The employee and her supervisor butted heads when the employee explained that she could not attend medication distribution training during her days off due to doctor’s appointments concerning her high-risk pregnancy. Soon thereafter, the supervisor expressed concerns about the employee’s high-risk pregnancy and spoke of risks to the unborn baby as well as patients. After the supervisor refused to permit the employee to dispense medications, which drastically limited what shifts she could work, the employee filed suit. When the employer moved for summary judgment, the court pointed out that the employer itself provided direct evidence of pregnancy discrimination—the employer admitted that its management removed the employee from the work schedule because of the high-risk conditions of her pregnancy. That the employer “may have done this out of benevolent concern for the health and safety of the nurse and her unborn child does not excuse the discriminatory nature of its actions,” noted the court.

In other words, employers need to be wary: Even the best of intentions may result in unlawful behavior. Carter v. A & E Supported Living, Inc., No. 16-00574-N, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 195838, at *1 (S.D. Ala. Nov. 29, 2017)