EEOC Sues Consulting Company For Firing Employee Because of Post-Partum Depression

On October 8, 2014, the EEOC filed a lawsuit against The Lash Group, a Charlotte, North Carolina based consulting company. The company refused to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee with post-partum depression. The employee was fired in violation of federal law.

The employee worked as a reimbursement case advocate at The Lash Group’s Rockville, Md., facility when she went on maternity leave. She received short-term disability benefits while on maternity leave and advised the disability benefits carrier that she needed additional unpaid leave due to post-partum depression. The Lash Group initially fired her, but later extended her short-term disability leave. When the employee was medically released to return to work, however, The Lash Group did not return her to her position as a reimbursement case advocate because it had filled her position.

The company refused to transfer her to vacant positions for which she was qualified and instead forced her to find and compete for vacant positions within the company. The employee applied for three vacant positions for which she was qualified, however, she ended up being fired because of her disability.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of disability. The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for applicants and employees with a disability unless the employer can show that doing so would be an undue hardship. The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Southern Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

“While pregnancy itself is not a disability under the ADA, some women develop pregnancy-related disabilities, such as post-partum depression, and are entitled to reasonable accommodations unless the employer can prove that doing so would be a significant expense or difficulty,” said Spencer H. Lewis, Jr., district director of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office.

EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, “It is incumbent on employers to provide reasonable accommodations for women who need them due to pregnancy-related disabilities, such as extending unpaid leave or transferring the employee to a vacant position for which she is qualified. Forcing an employee to try to find a new position within the company on her own does not meet the company’s affirmative obligation to provide a reasonable accommodation by transferring her to a vacant job.”

See full article at EEOC.

If you believe your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act were violated by your employer, please contact The Harman Firm, LLP