A class-action lawsuit against Walmart was filed in a federal court in Illinois by two former employees in which the retail chain is being accused of mistreatment of thousands of their pregnant employees and failing to accommodate them.
Talisa Borders and Otisha Woolbright are represented by the National Woman’s Law Center, A Better Balance and the Washington based law firm Mehri & Skalet. The organizations reported that women were being mistreated while pregnant during their employment at Walmart.
The lawsuit could include at least 20,000 women and possibly 50,000 women that worked in Walmart during pregnancy.
In 2014, the two former employees who worked in different stores filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the human rights agency of the state of Illinois.
According to the complaint, the largest private U.S. employer ignored requests from pregnant employees about the limits of carrying heavy objects, climbing stairs and other potential dangers that could cause injuries or miscarriages.
The defense of Walmart
The Reuters news agency reported that in a statement provided by spokesman Randy Hargrove the company denied the allegations about women and said that Walmart’s pregnancy policies “have always met or exceeded the state and federal law.”
Borders worked at a Walmart in Illinois from July 2012 to April 2017. According to her accusation, when she became pregnant, she made an informal arrangement with one of her coworkers so she could avoid lifting heavy objects and climbing stairs. When one of her supervisors became aware of the arrangement, he asked her for a medical note.
The complaint claims that Borders was forced to take a leave without pay, even though she still had two months until she gave birth. Upon her return, Borders was not given her previous position back and instead had her pay lowered to $2 less per hour.
Woolbright claimed that she had a similar experience in Florida. Despite telling supervisors in Walmart’s deli/bakery department that she had a high-risk pregnancy and wanted to avoid lifting heavy objects, and offered documents that validated her claims, her request was denied.
The lawsuit states that when Woolbright requested time off for giving birth to her child and recover, she was fired.
Walmart changed their policy in 2014 in order to treat pregnancy as a disability. However, the lawyers of the former employees said in the lawsuit that the changes were not significant enough and that they are planning a separate lawsuit over the new policy established by the giant chain.
The lawsuit says that Walmart treated it’s “pregnant employees as second-class citizens” when its policies and practices violated protections promised to pregnant women under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Borders, Woolbright and the group of people represented by the lawsuit are seeking damages for “for physical and mental injuries sustained as a result of Walmart’s unlawful conduct, including compensation for loss of income and benefits, mental anguish, emotional distress, and humiliation.”