Walmart hit with bias claim for denying light-duty program to pregnant workers
- Walmart has been charged with discriminating against pregnant workers. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued the retail giant under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), an amendment to Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that prohibits pregnancy discrimination in employment.
- Alyssa Gilliam and other pregnant workers at Walmart's Distribution Center #6025 in Menomonie, Wisconsin, were prevented from participating in the company's light-duty program, which is offered to workers with lifting restrictions. After failing to reach a pre-litigation settlement in its conciliation process, the EEOC filed the lawsuit on Sept. 20 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin.
- The EEOC said it will seek full relief for the plaintiffs, including back pay and compensatory and punitive damages. The agency also seeks non-monetary measures to correct Walmart's future practices.
Walmart has previously faced allegations of discriminating against pregnant workers. In 2014, the retailer was charged with refusing to offer pregnant employees accommodations like those offered to similarly situated workers under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It face similar claims again in 2017. The ADA does not view pregnancy itself as a disability but EEOC takes the position that the PDA requires that employers accommodate pregnant workers in the same way they accommodate other similarly situated employees.
Walmart isn't alone in allegedly mishandling situations involving pregnant workers. In April, Nick's Sports Grill in Texas was fined $24,000 for firing a pregnant bartender when she stopped wearing her standard work uniform of a body-hugging shirt and short hot pants. And in July, LA Louisanne, Inc., a Los Angeles restaurant, settled a pregnancy discrimination suit for $82,500. Dash Dream Plant, an orchid grower in Fresno, California, paid $110,000 to settle its pregnancy discrimination case after the firm allegedly told female employees not to get pregnant, threatening to fire them if they did. Dash Dream Plant also refused to reinstate or rehire a woman after she gave birth, the complaint said.
The EEOC remains committed to enforcing federal law, but states like Massachusetts and Nevada and at least 18 others have enacted their own laws granting pregnant workers rights, too. Employers operating in multiple locations will want to familiarize themselves not only with Title VII, the ADA and the Family and Medical Leave Act, but also relevant legislation at the state and local level.