There have been at least three Walmart pregnancy discrimination lawsuits in the past few years. The lawsuits argue that Walmart refused to accommodate pregnant women during the terms of their pregnancy.
Walmart allegedly provided accommodations to other types of workers, but refused to provide pregnant women with assistance or reduced workload in lifting heavy objects, with reasonable time off to address pregnancy-related health issues, or with accommodations after the baby is born—such as time off to recover from childbirth; and privacy to nurse or pump milk.
This is not the first time Walmart has faced lawsuits for employment violations.
After some of these lawsuits were filed, Walmart adopted a new policy for pregnant workers. Walmart’s adopted its new pregnancy discrimination policies in June 2018.
Read on to learn more details about recent lawsuits against Walmart and its new pregnancy and childbirth policies.
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Walmart faces at least three federal class actions in recent years alleging pregnancy discrimination
Lawsuit #1: Illinois Pregnant Worker Class Action | A federal class action in Illinois has accused Walmart of discriminating against pregnant women by refusing to provide reasonable accommodations during the terms of their pregnancy. Walmart’s two attempts to have the case dismissed have been unsuccessful.
Lawsuit #2: EEOC Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit | In September 2018, a U.S. federal agency announced that it had filed a lawsuit against Walmart for refusing to accommodate pregnant workers’ requests for a lighter work load. The agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), says that Walmart violated pregnant workers’ rights
Lawsuit #3: New York Pregnant Worker Lawsuit | In July 2018, two former Walmart employees sued on behalf of New York workers who were fired for taking time off to seek medical attention for pregnancy-related health issues.
Walmart Adopts New Policies Aimed at Curbing Pregnancy Discrimination
Wal-mart employees who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or recovering from childbirth may ask for adjustments to their work schedules or leave to recover from childbirth.
Pregnant employees may also ask for reasonable accommodations, such as light duty work or a temporary transfer to a less physically demanding position.
Pregnant workers may also request “Temporary Alternative Duty,” a program that Walmart used to reserve for employees with on-the-job injuries. The Temporary Alternative Duty program gives workers a temporary re-assignment to job duties with a lighter workload, such as a 90-day reassignment to work as a cashier.
Past Pregnancy Discrimination Cases Against Wal-mart
Some past cases against Walmart for pregnancy discrimination have not succeeded.
In particular, a former Walmart employee represented herself in a case against Walmart that she lost and then appealed to a federal appeals court. It is often inadvisable to represent yourself and the advice of a good employment lawyer is often crucial.
The former employee of Wal-mart Stores, Inc. part-time stocker on the overnight shift. Because stocking shelves requires heavy lifting, there is a requirement that workers be able to lift at least 50 pounds.
The former Walmart employee learned that she was pregnant. She continued working her job as a stocker. During that time, she noticed spotting and heavy bleeding. She saw her doctor three times.
Her doctor told her that she couldn’t lift more than 20 pounds. She told this to her supervisor, who transferred her to an aisle with lighter objections, such as baby food and toothbrushes.
She worked there for a time, but then her supervisor transferred her back to a different aisle.
Soon after, she miscarried.
After she became pregnant a second time, her doctor told her that she couldn’t lift anything more than 10 lbs. She told her supervisor that she wanted a job folding clothes, so she wouldn’t have to lift anything heavy.
Walmart told her that no such position exists: that even employees who fold clothes also have to load stock some of the time.
She went to human resources (HR) and told them that she wanted light duty work. They told her that instead, she needed to take a medical leave if she couldn’t perform her job duties as a stocker.
She decided not to return to work, and sued Walmart for pregnancy discrimination.
Judge Easterbrook, a well-known federal court of appeals judge, authored a decision on her appeal, after she lost at the trial court level. Judge Easterbrook wrote that Walmart was not required to create a position for pregnant workers that did not otherwise exist (solely folding clothing), unless Walmart did this for other categories of workers.
This was in 2012. But the tides may be turning and hopefully today, Walmart would have granted this former employee a temporary reassignment to a cashier or similar position.
Our fertility law experience
Our attorneys are currently litigating a class action lawsuit in California on behalf of women whose frozen eggs or embryos were destroyed or damaged as a result of a freezer failure at Pacific Fertility Center, in San Francisco, California.
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