Hospital Network Refused to Accommodate New Employee’s Pregnancy-Related Disability And Withdrew Her Job Offer Instead, Federal Agency Charges
NEWARK, N.J. – Saint Clare’s Health, a division of Prime Healthcare Services that operates two hospitals in Morris County, N.J., violated federal law when it refused to accommodate a new employee’s sudden disability by delaying her start date, and withdrew her job offer instead, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the EEOC’s complaint, Taylor McKay, who was pregnant at the time, was hired by Saint Clare’s Health as an EMS dispatcher. She completed a background check, drug test, and health screening and was scheduled to start work. However, McKay was hospitalized and diagnosed with preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication affecting the circulatory system, causing high blood pressure and risk to internal organs.
The EEOC said that five days before her start date, while in the hospital where she was induced into early labor due to her condition and was awaiting the birth of her son, McKay emailed Saint Clare’s human resource department about her diagnosis and induction and asked what steps she needed to take next. Within hours, she received a voicemail from Saint Clare’s withdrawing her offer of employment, even though she needed only the minor accommodation of delaying her start date by several weeks.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires that employers engage with applicants and employees to provide reasonable accommodations for disabilities and prohibits employers from taking adverse action against qualified applicants and employees based on their disability. The EEOC filed suit in 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. 2:21-cv- 2055) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages for McKay, as well as injunctive relief designed to remedy and prevent future disability discrimination at Saint Clare’s. The case will be litigated by EEOC Trial Attorney Caitlin D. Brown and EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Kimberly A. Cruz.
“The law requires that employers engage with applicants and employees to provide reasonable accommodations for disabilities,” said Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office. “Here, the employer’s response was not engagement, but instead revocation of the individual’s job — a clear violation of the ADA.”
Judy Keenan, director of the New York District Office, said, “This case underscores that pregnancy-related disabilities are covered by the ADA. The EEOC will aggressively enforce the ADA to ensure that the reasonable accommodation process is followed for applicants and employees with these and other disabilities.”
The EEOC’s New York District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, 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 employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.