An Indian-American nurse has filed a lawsuit against her former employer, alleging race and ethnicity discrimination after she was fired for taking breaks while suffering from nausea relating to pregnancy earlier this year, according to a media report. Saijal Sara Shah, who worked at The Lodge at Maple Creek, filed the lawsuit in US District Court in Grand Rapids against Lutheran Social Services of Michigan, which manages the care facility.
Alleging race and ethnicity discrimination in her complaint, Shah has asked for her job back, lost wages and benefits, compensatory damages for mental anguish and emotional distress and punitive damages, mlive.com news site reported yesterday. Shah said she was disciplined after she told another worker that she had to go home to recover from nausea caused by her pregnancy.
Shah began working at Maple Creek in September last year. She was a charge nurse, providing care to patients who required 24-hour care and supervising other staff. Her attorney said she frequently worked double shifts or 16 hours. On March 15, after working her first eight-hour shift, and scheduled to work another, she vomited and felt “extremely nauseated, to the point where she could not function at work,” her attorney said. Shah told another nurse she had to go home, take medication and lie down to see if she could return to work. She left her phone number and went home.
She was then told that she would be disciplined by the unit manager for failing to clock out and failing to leave a way to contact her, the lawsuit said. Shah then called the director of nursing, explained her situation, and was told she acted reasonably and the situation would work out.
The incident that led to her firing happened on April 3. She worked the overnight shift and was busy and staffing was low so she skipped her lunch break. She told a nursing assistant she would take a 15-minute break in the family room because she felt nauseated, had a headache and slight fever. Although the former director of nursing agreed that she “acted reasonably in taking what amounted to barely over an hour to recover from pregnancy nausea and ultimately return to complete her double-shift, Defendant still disciplined (Shah),” attorney Sarah Riley Howard wrote in the lawsuit.
While the case centred around Shah’s pregnancy, she has said that white workers “were not singled out or penalised, falsely accused of sleeping on the job or targeted as Plaintiff was,” the lawsuit said. Meanwhile, Lutheran Social Services spokeswoman Cheryl Kohs said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.