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Judy Greenwald

Nursing assistant fired in 15th week of pregnancy can sue: District Court

August 5, 2014 - 12:28pm


A pregnant nursing assistant who was immediately fired during her 15th week of pregnancy, after she told her employers she could not lift 20 pounds once she reached her 20th week, can pursue her pregnancy discrimination claim, says a federal District Court.

Araceli Cadenas’ job at the Meadowbrook Manor’s nursing and rehabilitation facility in Naperville, Illinois, required her to pull, push or lift at least 20 pounds as she fulfilled duties that included placing belts around residents’ chests or waists and using their own weight to pull and lift the resident up, according to the ruling by the federal District Court in Chicago in Araceli Cadenas v. Butterfield Health Care II, c/b/a Meadowbrook Manor of Naperville et al.

Ms. Cadenas was terminated while she was 15 weeks pregnant, after she presented a doctor’s note stating she could not lift more than 20 pounds once she reached her 20th week of pregnancy, although at that point she could still work without restrictions, according to the ruling, which was issued July 15, but publicized last week.

“At a minimum … Meadowbrook was entitled to fire Cadenas as of the 20th week of her pregnancy when, it is undisputed, she would no longer be able to do her job effectively,” said the ruling.

“The question remains whether as a matter of law Meadowbrook could terminate Cadenas at 15 weeks of pregnancy before the restrictions took effect,” the ruling said.

“Meadowbrook never suggested, or provided evidence, that there was any business reason not to let Cadenas work during the five weeks remaining before her restrictions went into effect,” the ruling said.

“Without any physical restrictions applicable between weeks 15 and 20 of Cadenas pregnancy, Meadowbrook has pointed to no non-discriminatory reason for terminating Cadenas effectively immediately,” said the court.

“A jury could reasonably conclude she was terminated in her 15th week for a reason other than physical limitations — namely, discrimination based upon her pregnancy,” said the court, in denying Meadowbrook motion for summary judgment dismissing the case.

Last month, a pet food manufacturer that fired a lab technician an hour after learning she was pregnant, citing safety concerns for both mother and baby, agreed to settle a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission pregnancy discrimination case for $30,000.

 



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