The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is alleging that a Walmart Distribution Center in Wisconsin has violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The part of Title VII that was believed to have been violated, is the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). A complaint was filed to the federal court on behalf of Alyssa Gilliam. Gilliam claims that, while other non-pregnant workers with physical disabilities received job modifications, pregnant workers were denied modification and unpaid leave requests.
The lawsuit claims that after Gilliam requested light duty or a transfer to a less physically demanding job, the result of her request backfired. According to the lawsuit, “this resulted in Gilliam losing her benefits, having to reduce her hours, and being forced to take unpaid leave.”
During her pregnancy in 2015, Gilliam was denied modifications, reduced work hours, a request for a chair to lighten the burden, shorter work days and additional breaks.
On May 8th, 2018, the EEOC found reasonable cause to believe that the Wisconsin, Walmart Distribution Center had, in fact, violated the PDA when it refused to recognize the need for pregnancy related medical working restrictions- not only for Gilliam, but for women working in Walmart across the country.
National Public Radio (NPR) notes that, “Walmart is also facing class action lawsuits in Illinois and New York, accusing the company of denying accommodations to thousands of pregnant workers in retail stores. In March, a federal judge in Illinois denied Walmart’s bid to dismiss the claims. The New York case is pending.”
The EEOC’s district director in Chicago, Julianne Bowman, who is responsible for managing the federal agency’s pre-suit administrative investigation, spoke directly about their investigation of the allegations.
“What our investigation indicated, is that Walmart had a robust light duty program that allowed workers with lifting restrictions to be accommodated,” said Bowman. “But, Walmart deprived pregnant workers of the opportunity to participate in its light duty program. This amounted to pregnancy discrimination, which violates federal law.”
While the allegations have been widely accepted, Walmart is standing up for its policies that are in place to protect against discrimination, especially pregnancy discrimination. According to NPR, Walmart is the nation’s largest private employer. The spokesman for Walmart, Randy Hargrove, has denied all allegations of discrimination.
“This case is not suitable for class-treatment,” said Hargrove. “Walmart is a great place for women to work. We do not tolerate discrimination, and we support our associates by providing accommodations every day across all of our stores, clubs, distribution centers and offices.”
In an email statement to NPR, Hargrove later 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 and this includes the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.”