- A Louisiana Walgreens location did not allow a pregnant employee who was experiencing a medical emergency to take an unscheduled leave in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to Sept. 28 allegations from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC v. Walgreens, No. 1:22-cv-5357 (W.D. La. Sept. 28, 2022)).
- Per the EEOC’s complaint, the pregnant worker, who also had previously disclosed and asked for accommodations for her conditions of diabetes and hypoglycemia, began spotting during a work shift — a common sign of miscarriage. She called her doctor and told her supervisor she needed to leave, but was told she needed to remain until a replacement could be found. Her supervisor allegedly said no replacement was available, that the worker was not a good fit now that she was pregnant and that she asked for too many accommodations. The worker resigned in order to see her doctor, EEOC said, and later learned she’d had a miscarriage.
- “Employers must consider an employee’s request for reasonable accommodation, including a request for leave,” Rudy Sustaita, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Houston District Office, said the agency’s release. Walgreens declined to comment to HR Dive.
The EEOC’s suit falls at the cross section of a couple different compliance issues: pregnancy-related disability and leave as a reasonable accommodation.
The EEOC has noted that while pregnancy itself is not a disability, pregnant workers may have pregnancy-related impairments that qualify as disabilities under the ADA. Common pregnancy-related impairments are temporary, such as gestational diabetes, pregnancy-related sciatica and preeclampsia, the EEOC said.
According to a fact sheet from worker advocacy group A Better Balance, pregnant workers who experience or are at risk of miscarriage are entitled to a number of legal protections. In its complaint, EEOC regarded spotting and miscarriage as pregnancy-related conditions that entitle a worker to reasonable accommodation.
EEOC has laid out guidance for providing leave as a reasonable accommodation. An employer must consider providing unpaid leave if an employee with a disability requires it, the agency said, so long as such leave does not create undue hardship.
Further, “requests for leave related to disability can often fall under existing employer policies,” the guidance stated. “In those cases, the employer's obligation is to provide persons with disabilities access to those policies on equal terms as similarly situated individuals.”
Regardless of other factors, EEOC pointed out in its complaint that Walgreens has a policy relevant to the situation. “Walgreens ordinarily permits workers to leave if they are experiencing an emergency,” court documents said. “It is not unusual for the store manager and the shift lead to cover for a customer sales associate when a replacement is unavailable.”