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Eleventh Circuit Holds That Medical Practice Did Not Discriminate Against Former Employee Because of Her Pregnancy

On October 18, 2017, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion upholding a lower court’s grant of summary judgment to a medical practice in Florida that had been sued by a former employee who claimed she was discriminated against based on her pregnancy.

In July 2014, plaintiff Kirby Mohammed, a licensed practical nurse, began working for defendant Jacksonville Hospitalists PA under a 90-day probationary period. Mohammed’s was to act as a “nurse liaison” for the Practice, which she understood to involve meeting with physicians, case managers, and representatives from facilities where the practice had not yet established a business relationship.

In August 2014, Mohammed discovered she was pregnant with twins. Less than two weeks after informing the practice of her pregnancy, the practice held a meeting to discuss whether Mohammed could be terminated. According to one of the practice physicians, the subject matter of the meeting was about Mohammed’s alleged failure to significantly increase business, as well as issues about her attire and disorganization. In September 2014, the practice informed Mohammed that her position was being eliminated.

In June 2015, Mohammed filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC, and eventually filed a complaint in federal district court alleging the practice subjected her to sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Florida Civil Rights Act. The practice moved for summary judgment, arguing that Mohammed was fired for reasons not related to her pregnancy. The trial court found that Mohammed failed to rebut the practice’s non-discriminatory reasons for terminating her and granted summary judgment in favor of the practice.

On appeal, Mohammed argued that she was not actually fired for “poor job performance.” However, the Eleventh Circuit noted that Mohammed had admitted that “she did not bring any new clients to the company, may have dressed unprofessionally on occasion, was late to a meeting with clients, and helped her mother get a position while on the clock for [the practice].” The Eleventh Circuit also noted that Mohammed did “not refute ‘head on’” the fact that the practice concluded the “nurse liaison position was not financially justified.” Thus, the court concluded that Mohammed did not show a “‘convincing mosaic of circumstantial evidence’ that allows the inference that she was intentionally discriminated against because of her pregnancy.”

The attorneys at CCLB represent clients of all types and sizes – particularly in the healthcare industry – in connection with employment-related matters, including those brought under Title VII and similar employment discrimination statutes. For any questions, or if we can be of any assistance with such a matter, please contact us at (404) 262-6505 or sgrubman@cclblaw.com.