Kaiser settles bias lawsuit
Insurer to pay $180K settlement, was accused of rescinding a job offer based on pregnancy
STORY SUMMARY »
Kaiser Foundation Health Plan has agreed to settle a pregnancy bias lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of a California nurse for $180,000.
Without admitting any wrongdoing, Kaiser agreed to pay the amount to Margaret McIlroy, a registered labor and delivery nurse.
McIlroy had been offered a position in 2003 as director of nursing for obstetrics and pediatrics at Kaiser on Maui, a transfer and promotion from her position at Kaiser in Baldwin Park, Calif.
Two weeks before her October start date, she told Kaiser of her pregnancy and plans to take maternity leave that December. Less than 24 hours after that, she said, she got a phone message rescinding the Maui job offer.
Kaiser said in a statement that it followed all state and federal hiring laws but "agreed to resolve the matter in the interest of all parties concerned."
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Kaiser Foundation Health Plan has agreed to pay $180,000 to settle a pregnancy bias case brought to district court by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of a California nurse.
Margaret McIlroy, a registered labor and delivery nurse and certified midwife, had applied for a promotional transfer from Kaiser Southern California to the Kaiser Wailuku clinic in the fall of 2003.
But after extending a job offer as director of Nursing for Obstetrics and Pediatrics, Kaiser withdrew it less than 24 hours after McIlroy informed the hospital that she was pregnant, alleges the EEOC, violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Mcllroy, who was 44 at the time, got a voice mail message notifying her of Kaiser's rescission of the job offer. She was two weeks away from starting.
The settlement comes five months after Chaminade University agreed to pay $50,000 to settle another pregnancy bias suit filed by the U.S. EEOC on behalf of Chie McCaughey.
In that case, the EEOC said Chaminade withdrew its job offer to McCaughey as an off-campus program coordinator a day after she revealed that she was pregnant. Chaminade admitted no wrongdoing.
In the current case, McIlroy, then a nurse at Kaiser in Baldwin Park, Calif., had applied for the job in June 2003, received an offer, and was planning to start her new position the following month.
But her mother fell ill unexpectedly, and she delayed her transfer until October.
Two weeks before she was to start, she had a conversation with a human resources representative at Kaiser Wailuku, saying she intended to take maternity leave in December. Her due date was the first week of January 2004.
That same night, the nursing manager left her a message on her cell phone, withdrawing the job offer.
Though she may not have told that manager about her pregnancy directly, it was in her employment records. McIlroy said she had disclosed it -- along with her due date -- during an employee physical exam in June, in connection with her application for another Kaiser position in Hawaii.
Kaiser issued a statement saying: "From the outset of this case, we have maintained that we followed all state and federal hiring laws; however we agreed to resolve the matter in the interest of all parties concerned."
The settlement was reached with no admission of liability on Kaiser Hawaii's part.
"We will augment our already extensive policies and training programs to better reflect what our actual practices have always been," said Kaiser in the statement.
As part of the settlement, Kaiser will have to post its policies on the Internet and Intranet, make sure employees are trained, and provide annual reports to the EEOC on any internal complaints on pregnancy discrimination in the Hawaii region.
Mcllroy, meanwhile, said in a press release that she wanted to stand up for her own rights as well as for all women.
"Standing up for my civil and God-given rights has come at an incalculable and a never-ending cost to my family and myself, but I felt strongly that I had to speak out," said McIlroy. "It started as, and has always been, the mere principle of the matter ... trying to protect ALL women from having this happen to them."
Kaiser also agreed to a separate, confidential settlement on other claims by McIlroy that weren't covered under Title VII, one of which was a violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act.
For those claims, she was represented by Wailuku attorney Kevin H.S. Yuen.
Timothy Riera, EEOC Honolulu's director, said that pregnancy bias cases show an upward trend nationwide, with a record high of 4,901 charges filed last year.
The number of pregnancy bias cases filed with the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission grew from 23 in fiscal year 2005 to 30 in 2006. A total of 24 cases have been filed so far this fiscal year, which ended June 30.
EEOC San Francisco regional attorney William Tamayo said: "The law is clear that employers cannot change their mind about a qualified candidate simply because they learn she is pregnant and will need to take a maternity leave. We filed this lawsuit to send a message to employers that pregnancy discrimination will not be tolerated."