CNA fired while pregnant can't sue for discrimination, court rules

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A certified nursing assistant can't claim she was discriminated against by the skilled nursing facility that fired her while she was pregnant, a federal court ruled this week.

CNA Eryon Luke learned she was pregnant with twins in October 2011, two months after she had been hired by Nottingham Regional Rehab Center in Baton Rouge, LA. Luke notified facility officials of her pregnancy, and that she was considered by a doctor to be a high-risk pregnancy who could only work if she avoided heavy lifting for two weeks

Nottingham officials said that wasn't possible, and that Luke would be unable to work since the “CNA position, by its very nature, requires heavy lifting,” according to court documents. Luke did not work for 10 days, until she was medically cleared to return.

One month after returning, Luke brought Nottingham officials another note that stated she would be unable to lift more than 30 pounds for the remainder of her pregnancy.

“[Nottingham] viewed this restriction as a non-starter,” court documents read. “Every CNA was regularly required to lift more than 30 pounds, and there was no light duty for [Luke] to perform.”

Luke was fired in May 2012, as there were still no “light” duties for her to perform at the facility.

In her 2013 lawsuit against the provider, Luke claimed that the facility violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act — which was amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act to bar discrimination on the basis of pregnancy and related medical conditions — by firing her instead of allowing her to perform light duties, or granting her use of accommodations, such as mechanical lifts.

In his Aug. 8 ruling, Chief Judge Brian Jackson said Luke couldn't pursue a discrimination claim since she failed to provide evidence that Nottingham offers light duties to non-pregnant workers who have similar lifting restrictions.

"The  [Pregnancy Discrimination Act] does not require that all pregnant women be treated equally. It simply requires that pregnant women not be treated less favorably than those outside of their protected class,” Jackson wrote. “Unfortunately, this case highlights a prominent gap in the [Pregnancy Discrimination Act].  No pregnant woman should, in 2016, be fired for being unable to lift more than 30 pounds.”

Luke's attorney plans to appeal the case, Bloomberg BNA reported.