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EEOC Sues Trinity Health for Pregnancy Discrimination

Medical Provider Refused to Keep Pregnant Worker on the Job Working Light Duty and Instead Fired Her, Federal Agency Charges

MINNEAPOLIS - Trinity Health, an integrated healthcare provider with 2,500 employees headquartered in Minot, N.D., violated federal law when it fired an employee rather than accommodate her pregnancy and disability-related medical restrictions, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.

Julianne Bowman, the EEOC's district director in Chicago who managed the federal agency's pre-suit administrative investigation, said that the agency's investigation indicated that Trinity Health fired its employee once it learned of her pregnancy and her pregnancy-related disabilities. When she requested light-duty work because of her restricted ability to lift, they refused to give her light-duty tasks available to its employees injured on the job. They also did not provide her with leave as required by the statutes.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), which prohibits pregnancy discrimination in employment, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers provide reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities, including disabilities related to pregnancy. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Trinity Health, d/b/a, Civil Action No. 1:17-cv-00200-CSM) in U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota on September 25, 2017, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The case is assigned to U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles S. Miller, Jr. The EEOC is seeking full relief, including back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and non-monetary measures to correct Trinity Health's practices going forward.

"The PDA makes it clear that an employer must accommodate pregnant employees to the same extent that it accommodates other employees similar in their ability or inability to work," said Gregory Gochanour, regional attorney of the EEOC's Chicago District Office. "In turn, the ADA requires an employer accommodate disabling conditions. Trinity abided by neither obligation."

Jean Kamp, associate regional attorney of the EEOC's Chicago District Office, said, "The nurse was willing and able to perform light-duty work. Instead, Trinity fired her. When employees are treated this way, the EEOC is ready to step in."

According to company information, Trinity Health operates in Western North Dakota and in Montana and operates facilities in Minot, among others.

The EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of employment discrimination, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.