Earlier today the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against Walmart Inc. over allegations that the company forced pregnant employees at a “Wisconsin warehouse to go on unpaid leave and denied their requests to take on easier duties.”
The EEOC is an agency responsible for enforcing laws meant to protect employees in the workplace from discrimination, including pregnancy discrimination. According to reports from the agency, a Walmart “distribution center in Menomonie, Wisconsin, has discriminated against pregnant employees since 2014.” As a result, the EEOC claims the company violated federal laws that “requires employers to accommodate workers’ pregnancies in the same way as physical disabilities.”
Walmart has so far pushed back against the allegations from the EEOC, though. In a statement issued earlier today, Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said “the company does not tolerate discrimination.” He added:
“Our accommodations policy has been updated a number of times over the last several years and our policies have always fully met or exceeded both state and federal law.”
This isn’t the first time Walmart has come under fire over allegations of pregnancy discrimination, though. Earlier this year the company was slapped with class action lawsuits in New York and Illinois claiming it “denied accommodations to thousands of pregnant workers at its retail stores.” Back in March, an Illinois judge denied the company’s request to dismiss the allegations. The New York case is still currently pending.
In both cases, Walmart denied the allegations and argued that its “anti-discrimination policy has long listed pregnancy as a protected status.
Why was the most recent case in Wisconsin filed, though? What happened and who was involved? For starters, the case, which was officially filed in federal court in Wisconsin, “stems from a complaint filed by Alyssa Gilliam, an employee at the Walmart warehouse in Menomonie.” According to the lawsuit, Gilliam learned she was pregnant in 2015. When she requested “restrictions on heavy lifting, additional breaks, and a chair to use while working,” she was denied. In addition to Gilliam, the EEOC said “Walmart refused similar requests by other pregnant workers at the warehouse, but granted them for workers with disabilities or injuries.”
For those who don’t know, the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act prevents employers from discriminating against pregnant workers. Under the law, employers are expected and required to “provide the same accommodations to pregnant women as it does disabled workers.” Since the passing of the law, many pregnant or previously pregnant workers have stepped forward with claims of pregnancy discrimination against a variety of large companies, including Amazon.com, Whole Foods, AT&T, and more.