After further investigation, ABB, the National Women's Law Cetner, and Mehri & Skalet, PLLC, filed a class action charge against Walmart for discrimination against pregnant workers with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in early 2014. The individual at the center of the EEOC charge is a Walmart sales associate who was seven months pregnant when Walmart refused to accommodate her restrictions despite routinely accommodating workers with a wide array of non-pregnancy-related disabilities.
What happened to this pregnant worker is not an isolated incident. In fact, Walmart’s written Accommodation in Employment policy explicitly treated pregnant workers like second-class citizens, in violation of the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). After the charge was filed, Walmart announced its new Accommodation in Employment policy, which now explicitly states that temporary disabilities caused by pregnancy are eligible for the same reasonable accommodations as other disabilities. However, ABB immediately raised concerns about the language of this new policy—what did “temporary disability” mean? Would all pregnant workers in need of changes at work for their health be reasonably accommodated or only those Walmart deemed to be “disabled?”
In December, 2014, A Better Balance and our partners filed another charge of discrimination with the on behalf of Candis Riggins—a Walmart associate who was forced to risk her health while she was pregnant earlier this year. Her doctors told her to avoid the harsh chemicals she had to use when cleaning Walmart’s bathrooms, but her managers refused to transfer her to another position, like a cashier position, even as they hired new cashiers. Since Candis’ mistreatment occurred after Walmart’s policy change, it is clear that there is still much work to be done. Click here to read our press release and click here for the redacted EEOC charge.
“If Wal-Mart is truly serious about treating pregnant workers fairly and equally in the workplace, the company would step up and clarify its policy as well as ensure pregnant workers know their rights and managers are properly trained,” said Dina Bakst, ABB Co-Founder & Co-President, in the Washington Post.
In December, 2013, two worker shareholders and OUR Walmart members submitted a proposal to shareholders calling on Walmart to publicly commit to ending its illegal treatment of pregnant workers. They worked with A Better Balance and the National Women’s Law Center to craft their shareholder proposal. They submitted their proposal in December 2013 for inclusion in the shareholder proxy materials for the Walmart 2014 annual meeting of shareholders. They withdrew the proposal in March after receiving a copy of the newly adopted policy from Walmart.
If you, or someone you know works at Walmart and has experienced problems at work while pregnant, please call A Better Balance at 212-430-5982.
If you would like to learn more about Walmart's policy change, please read this legal information Backgrounder, prepared by A Better Balance and the National Women's Law Center.
Please also read the following press coverage about this important policy change and our advocacy efforts:
A Better Balance has been advocating for the rights of Walmart workers for many years. Click here to read our testimony for the New York City Council about Walmart's labor practices.
Please read this letter of support from leading social justice organizations, calling on Walmart to change their policies to make it clear that pregnant workers in need of resaonable accommodations will not be forced off the job.
With many pregnant women at Walmart still forced to choose between keeping their jobs and protecting their health, workers have continued calling on the company to publicly commit to improving its policies through the public launch of Respect the Bump, a campaign to hold Walmart accountable to its pregnant employees. Respect the Bump brings together Walmart associates who are expecting, have newborns, and are raising children. Joining them are the many Walmart moms (and dads) who shop at Walmart and are facing the same challenges of supporting their families. A Better Balance is working closely with Respect the Bump in their activities.