Aria Health accused of firing nursing assistant because of pregnancy

By Jon Campisi | Jun 18, 2013

A Northeast Philadelphia woman is suing Aria Health over claims that she was fired from

her job of less than three months due to her pregnancy, although the company claimed the plaintiff was terminated because one of her patient’s became injured while under the woman’s supervision.

Brittaney Hanton, who resides in Northeast Philadelphia, alleges she was fired from her job as a certified nursing assistant on June 29, 2012, just nine days shy of the expiration of a probationary period for new hires, because of discriminatory factors.

Hanton, who was hired by Aria Health in early April of last year to work at its hospital on Knights Road in the city’s Holmesburg neighborhood, said she didn’t immediately disclose her pregnancy to her supervisor, identified in the suit as Cathy Gibbons, because she had considered having an abortion at the time, according to the complaint.

The month after her hiring, however, Hanton disclosed the pregnancy, subsequently requesting medical leave due to the pregnancy and because of the fact that her toddler son was suffering from a serious medical condition.

Hanton’s request for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act was ultimately denied, because, as the hospital contended, the plaintiff had not yet completed a 12-month probationary period.

The defendant’s policy states that once a new hire’s probationary period ends, the employee becomes eligible for all benefits including disability and maternity leave.

Meanwhile, Hanton was told she was being terminated on June 29, 2012, purportedly due to the fact that one of the plaintiff’s patients fell to the ground while Hanton was doing paperwork, the complaint states.

The patient’s fall, however, had nothing to due with any wrongdoing on the plaintiff’s part, Hanton claims in her lawsuit, “and the patient was not injured in this very minor incident.”

The complaint goes on to state that certified nursing assistants such as Hanton are rarely fired due to such minor incidents, especially because of the fact that falls such as the one experienced by Hanton’s then-patient occur frequently in hospitals.

“The patient who fell, was alert and cognizant, and intentionally tried to get up from a chair without asking for assistance and slid onto her buttocks, while plaintiff was filling out a chart for another patient in another room about four doors away,” the suit states. “Thus, the patient was solely responsible for what had occurred.”

Hanton claims the hospital and its agents “undertook a course of conduct toward plaintiff and terminated plaintiff because she was a female and pregnant,” the complaint reads. “Defendant’s agents acted against plaintiff in a bigoted, willful and malicious manner.”

Hanton was subjected to humiliation, embarrassment and mental anguish as a result of her discriminatory firing, the suit states.

Hanton seeks lost pay and benefits, compensatory damages for pain and suffering, punitive damages, attorney’s fees and costs.

Aria Health is accused of violating the federal Civil Rights Act.

The plaintiff is being represented by Philadelphia attorney Samuel A. Dion, of the firm Dion & Goldberger, who filed the suit on Hanton’s behalf on June 14 at the federal courthouse in Philadelphia.

The federal case number is 2:13-cv-03346-HB.

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