Tarheel Medical Transport Forced Pregnant Employees to Take Medical Leave of Absence, Federal Agency Charged
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A North Carolina ambulance service violated federal law by discriminating against several female employees because they were pregnant, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the EEOC’s complaint, SDTM Investments, Inc., doing business as Tarheel Medical Transport, subjected Samantha Holder and other pregnant employees to different terms and conditions of employment from its non-pregnant employees. The complaint alleges that upon learning that an employee was pregnant, Tarheel required the employee to take a leave of absence or be discharged. The EEOC contends that around March 2009, the company refused to let Holder work in her job as an emergency medical technician and discharged her because she was pregnant.
Several months after Tarheel discharged Holder, EEOC alleges that the company also forced office manager and emergency medical technician Christina Berdan to take medical leave from her job. Tarheel informed Berdan that she could not return to work until after the birth of her child in spite of the fact that Berdan was physically fit, had no medical restrictions and could fully perform the duties of her job. As a result of this practice, Holder, Berdan and other pregnant employees were either terminated or forced to take a leave of absence despite the fact that they were fully capable of performing their job duties.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, prohibits employers from discriminating against pregnant employees. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages for Holder and the other affected employees, as well as injunctive relief. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. SDTM Investments, Inc. d/b/a Tarheel Medical Transport, Civil Action No. 4:11-CV-00080) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
“Working women who chose to have children cannot be penalized or treated differently from other employees simply because they are pregnant,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “Employers must remember that paternalistic attitudes toward pregnant employees can result in unequal treatment at work, which violates federal law.”
SDTM Investments, Inc. doing business as Tarheel Medical Transport, operates an ambulance service in Beaufort, Wilson and Craven counties in North Carolina, transporting non-emergency patients from their care facilities or homes to medical appointments. It employs approximately 40 people.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination. More information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.