Walmart has been the subject of many different types of lawsuits, which is not surprising for a company so big and with so many employees. One of the most recent legal claims being raised against Walmart involves denial of accommodations for pregnant employees. The EEOC has filed a lawsuit in Wisconsin on behalf of Alyssa Gilliam, an employee at the Walmart warehouse located in Menomonie, WI. Yet, these are not the first allegations of this type brought against the retail giant. Class action suits for pregnancy discrimination have already been filed in New York and Illinois.
Alyssa Gilliam’s Claims Against Walmart
When Alyssa Gilliam found out she was pregnant, she requested certain accommodations including lifting restrictions, more breaks and the use of a chair while on duty. All of her requested accommodations were denied. The most compelling allegation was that similar requests for accommodations made by other pregnant employees were also denied but allowed for nonpregnant employees with other injuries or disabilities.
Walmart denies these allegations, stating that the company has a no-tolerance policy with regard to discrimination and an updated accommodations policy in full compliance with state and federal law.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed in 1978 to provide much-needed protection for female employees from discrimination on the basis of “pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition.” The PDA includes two primary provisions: one prohibiting pregnancy bias, as a way to discriminate against a female employee because of their sex; the other prohibiting employers from treating pregnant females different from other employees who perform the same work, with respect to leave, insurance and other benefits.
What is Required to Make a Claim for Failure to Accommodate?
Under the current law, a female employee who claims her employer discriminated against her because of her pregnancy must initially show that (1) she was pregnant, (2) she asked to be accommodated because she could not fulfill her normal job duties, (3) her employer refused to accommodate her, and (4) her employer actually provided an accommodation for others who were similarly, and temporarily, unable to do their work After making this showing, it then becomes the burden of the employer to show that its workplace policy was not biased against pregnant employees, but was instead a neutral policy.
Requesting Leave for Pregnancy-Related Issues
In addition to accommodations, employers must provide medical leave for pregnancy under the FMLA. It is important that, if you plan to take maternity leave or intermittent leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you provide your employer with reasonable notice of your intended leave. Not every employee will be eligible for FMLA leave, but if you are you are allowed
to take leave for a maximum of 12 weeks within a 12-month period. The leave must be based on family or medical reasons, which includes the birth of a child. Unless your employer’s policies state otherwise, FMLA leave is unpaid. In other words, your employer is not required to pay you under this federal law.
If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation in the workplace, or if you have any other questions regarding your employment rights, please contact the experienced Birmingham employment law attorneys at Michel | King . You can contact us either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880. We are here to serve you!