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When Jaimie Cole, a Certified Nursing Assistant, was in her third trimester of pregnancy, she developed high risk of preeclampsia, a common condition involving high-blood pressure that can lead to preterm labor or even death. Her doctor advised her not to do any heavy lifting. Unfortunately, Jaimie’s job, which entailed helping patients in and out of bed and assisting them with bathing and other tasks, regularly required her to do just that.  So Jaimie gave her employer, the Brian Center, a long-term care facility owned by Sava SeniorCare, a doctor’s note and requested a temporary light duty assignment. Instead, she was sent home without pay for the rest of her pregnancy—because, according to her supervisor, pregnant women weren’t eligible for light duty.

As a soon-to-be mother of three and the primary breadwinner in her family, losing her paycheck could not have come at a worse time for Jaimie. She fell behind on her bills and went into credit card debt, was forced to sell her car, and lost approval for a mortgage to buy her house. She couldn’t even afford to furnish a nursery for her new baby.

Jaimie contacted the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation, which filed a pregnancy discrimination claim on her behalf. Happily, this week we reached a settlement in her case. Sava has agreed to pay Jaimie back for the time she was forced off the job, and to compensate her for the financial and emotional harms she and her family suffered. Sava has also implemented a new policy for pregnant workers, making sure that in the future they’ll get light duty or other accommodations on the same terms as other employees needing temporary job changes.

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ASHEVILLE, N.C – The American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of North Carolina have reached settlement in a case filed on behalf of a certified nursing assistant who was pushed out of her job at a nursing home facility in Weaverville, North Carolina while pregnant with her third child.

The settlement with Sava Senior Care’s Brian Center comes in a complaint brought with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in October 2014 on behalf of Jaimie Cole. During her third trimester of pregnancy, Cole developed a high risk condition and provided her employer a doctor’s note recommending that she not lift more than 35 pounds. Because her job entailed helping patients in and out of bed and assisting them with bathing, Cole requested a temporary light duty assignment to maintain a healthy pregnancy.

Instead of treating her request the same as other workers temporarily unable to perform normal job duties, Cole was told by her supervisor that pregnant women “aren’t eligible for light duty,” and was forced to take five weeks of unpaid leave. Settlement in her case includes payment for lost wages and emotional distress, and Sava’s implementation of a new policy to make sure that pregnant workers get light duty and other accommodations on the same terms as other employees needing temporary job changes.

“No expecting mother should be forced to go without a paycheck when her family desperately depends on those funds to cover the costs of welcoming a new child,” Cole said. “I am pleased with the compensation in this settlement, but even more relieved that future Brian Center employees who become pregnant won’t have to drain their savings and checking accounts the way I did when placed on unpaid leave. The new policy is what fairness looks like.”

Cole’s case is one of several that have been settled since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last spring in Young v. UPS that employer policies denying women accommodations for pregnancy-related conditions, while providing the same accommodations to other workers with similar limitations, can violate sex discrimination laws. In August 2015, the ACLU settled a similar pregnancy discrimination case against Sava Senior Care, which allowed individual care facilities to adopt their own policies with regards to accommodating pregnant workers.

“Too many women have been forced to choose between their paycheck and a healthy pregnancy,” said Galen Sherwin, senior staff attorney in the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project. “In order to achieve an even playing field for working women, workplace policies must ensure women aren’t forced off the job when they become pregnant. This settlement represents an important step closer to that goal.”

ACLU-NC Releases 2015 Legislative Report Card

Posted on in Legislative News

RALEIGH – The North Carolina General Assembly’s 2015 session witnessed major setbacks for civil liberties for the state, according to a legislative report card released today by the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina (ACLU-NC).

The statewide civil liberties group graded North Carolina House and Senate members’ votes on five key bills, respectively, all of which the ACLU-NC opposed for their negative impact on civil liberties. Three of the bills graded were signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory, and a fourth is awaiting his signature or veto. The group also issued grades for votes on two bills that did not become law and were voted on by only one of the two chambers.

The votes graded were on the following bills and issues:

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In 2009, we worked to help pass the Healthy Youth Act, an effective measure that has increased access to comprehensive sex education for North Carolina students, parents, and schools and has contributed to a steady decrease in teen pregnancies across the state.

But now state lawmakers are working to weaken the Healthy Youth Act by removing the requirement that sex ed be taught by recognized sexual health experts. SB 279 could even enable the return of abstinence-only education in our public schools.

Tell your House representative to reject any changes to the Healthy Youth Act and oppose SB 279!

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