CHICAGO – Symphony of Joliet, a nursing home, rehabilitation center and long-term residential care facility in Joliet, Ill., violated federal civil rights laws by disadvantaging pregnant employees in various ways, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.
Julianne Bowman, the district director of the EEOC’s office in Chicago, said that the EEOC’s pre-suit investigation revealed that Symphony had a written policy that required pregnant women to disclose their pregnancies. There was no similar written policy requiring other, non-pregnant employees to disclose medical information. Further, pregnant employees were forced to get doctor’s notes indicating that they could work without restrictions, even if they were not asking for an accommodation. Pregnant employees who did have restrictions and who had not worked for Symphony for a year were fired, and Symphony categorized them as ineligible for rehire.
“This kind of disparate treatment of pregnant employees backed up by written employment policies is unlawful discrimination, plain and simple,” said Bowman.
Pregnancy discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and requiring employees to submit to medical examinations without a business necessity violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The EEOC filed suit against Symphony after first attempting to reach pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The case (EEOC v. Symphony of Joliet Civil Action No. 1:21-cv-02978) was filed in the U.S. District Court of Illinois, Eastern Division and assigned to Judge Andrea R. Wood. The EEOC is seeking full relief, including back pay, reinstatement for affected individuals, compensatory and punitive damages, and non-monetary measures to correct Symphony’s practices going forward.
“Pregnant women are frequently subjected to harmful, paternalistic stereotypes,” said Gregory Gochanour, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Chicago District Office. “Pregnancy is no reason for an employer to assume that an employee cannot continue to work, nor is it a blank check for employers to seek invasive medical information or to subject pregnant employees to less favorable employment conditions than their non-pregnant co-workers.”
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 www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.