SNF reaches $50k settlement in disability discrimination suit

A South Carolina skilled nursing facility has agreed to pay $50,000 to settle claims that it fired a licensed practical nurse due to a disability that complicated her pregnancy.

In a lawsuit filed in July, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleged that  NHC Healthcare in Clinton, SC, was aware that Tonya Aria had paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia when she was hired in 2002. The condition can cause rapid heart rate, blackouts and tunnel vision if not controlled by medication.

In 2012, Aria learned she was pregnant and stopped taking her medication due to its possible side effects on her unborn child. As a result, Aria's PSVT symptoms became uncontrolled; normal pregnancy symptoms such as fatigue and nausea also were exacerbated by her condition. She was placed on bed rest and missed three work days in early 2013. Upon returning, Aria was fired due to her absences.

The EEOC's lawsuit claimed NHC refused to accommodate Aria's medical needs and unfairly fired her because of her disability and pregnancy.

NHC did not respond to a McKnight's request for comment by press time Thursday.

As part of the settlement, NHC also agreed to a two-year decree prohibiting the company from taking any “adverse personnel actions” against employees based on their pregnancy status or disability.

"This settlement should remind employers that federal law protects pregnant workers who develop a disability during pregnancy," Lynette Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District Office, wrote in an EEOC statement.