When she became pregnant, Michelle Spivey worried about lifting a nearly 250-pound patient in her job as a certified nurse's assistant. She asked the rehabilitation center where she worked for assistance and was told to get a doctor's verification of the restriction. Her obstetrician limited her to lifting 25 pounds.
But company policy allowed modified duty only for employees with work-related injuries. Soon after she cited her lifting restriction, Spivey was let go. The center eventually rehired her, but she said she lost seniority and benefits. She sued, claiming the employer's policy discriminated against pregnant employees. But the 11th Circuit threw the case out.
The court said thedoesn't require preferential treatment for expectant employees, so the rehab center didn't have to extend the modified duty accommodation to her. She was treated just as if she had not been pregnant.
Spivey also tried to argue that the policy had illegally affected pregnant workers disproportionately, but she had no statistical evidence to back that up. (Spivey v. Beverly Enterprises Inc., No. 99-6166, 11th Cir., 1999)
Advice: The general rule to remember: You must treat the pregnancy as you would any other temporary disability. If a temporarily disabled employee would have received some form of accommodation or benefit, that must be provided to the employee disabled due to pregnancy. Of course, the employee may be entitled to leave under theAct.
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