EEOC sues after disabled aide is dismissed

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is alleging that a South Carolina nursing home fired one of its licensed practical nurses due to a disability that complicated her pregnancy.

The provider, NHC Healthcare in Clinton, SC, did not respond to phone calls seeking comment.

According to an EEOC lawsuit filed in early July, NHC was aware when it hired Tonya Aria that she suffered from paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia. The condition can cause rapid heart rate, tunnel vision and blackouts if not controlled by medication.

In December 2012, more than 10 years after she was hired, Aria learned she was pregnant and stopped taking medication for PSVT. She did this out of caution about its potential effects on her unborn child, but the result was uncontrolled PSVT, which exacerbated fatigue, nausea and other common pregnancy symptoms. After taking three days off work for bed rest, Aria was fired, the EEOC complaint says.

It alleges that NHC Healthcare failed to accommodate Aria's pregnancy by allowing medical leave, and fired her because of it and a disability. 

The lawsuit claims violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and is seeking back pay, as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

“Employees who do not have a pre-existing disability, but who develop medical conditions that meet the ADA's definition of ‘disability' as a result of becoming pregnant, are also protected from disability discrimination,” Lynette Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District Office, wrote in an EEOC statement. “Employers must be aware of this intersection between Title VII's pregnancy discrimination prohibition and the ADA.”

In 2011, a federal appeals court ruled in a different case that a Golden Living's employee's pregnancy did not count as a disability.