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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Ambulance company settles lawsuit over discrimination against pregnant Spokane employee

UPDATED: Mon., Dec. 28, 2020

Ambulance company American Medical Response will settle a discrimination lawsuit after it refused to provide its pregnant Spokane employee a temporary reprieve from heavy-duty work, regulators announced Monday.

AMR will pay $162,500 to a paramedic to resolve a lawsuit brought by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which alleged that rather than offer her light-duty work, the company told her to take unpaid leave for the final days of her pregnancy.

The company, based in Colorado, provides medical transportation for the city of Spokane and several other surrounding communities.

The lawsuit, which was filed last year in U.S. District Court in Spokane, centers on the company’s treatment of paramedic Katherine Hall when she was pregnant in 2017.

Hall provided her supervisors with a doctor’s note requesting that she be limited to lifting 20 pounds at time, work shifts 12 hours or fewer in length, and be assigned to dispatch instead of field work.

The company’s regional director told Hall “there was no alternative work available at the time and further advised Hall that due to her work restrictions, she would need to take a leave of absence instead,” the lawsuit stated. Hall said she could not afford to take unpaid leave.

By refusing to offer her the same, less physically strenuous tasks it offers employees who have been injured on the job, the EEOC alleged that the company violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

As part of the settlement, the company will enter a two-and-a-half year consent decree, under which it agrees to provide training on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to its supervisors and employees in Spokane.

“An employer must accommodate pregnant employees to the same extent that it accommodates other employees similar in their ability or inability to work,” said EEOC senior trial attorney May Che in a statement. “Pregnant workers should not be forced to choose between losing the ability to make a living and risking the health and safety of their baby by being required to work without accommodation.”

In response to questions from The Spokesman-Review, AMR spokesperson Nicole Lee said the company “applies appropriate policy and practice changes with each new change in law and had already changed its practice in Washington state before this lawsuit was started.

“American Medical Response does not further comment on resolved litigation,” Lee said.

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