ABB Calls on Walmart to Confirm Reports About Pregnancy-Related Absences and Other Details
NEW YORK – Just months after A Better Balance (ABB) filed a class action lawsuit alleging that Walmart’s absence policy violates New York’s pregnancy accommodation law, and a year after ABB issued a major report, prepared with support from OUR Walmart, documenting how Walmart’s brutal attendance policy violates the law, Walmart is rolling out significant changes to its attendance policy, although important questions remain.
“ABB applauds Walmart for recognizing that changes to its policy were needed. However, the company has yet to confirm reports that pregnancy-related absences may be authorized, which would be a major victory for pregnant workers. We call on Walmart to confirm the details of its new policy—workers deserve to know,” said Dina Bakst, Co-Founder & Co-President of A Better Balance. “We are also concerned that the new policy will not fully protect the rights of all workers with lawful absences, including those with disabilities and serious medical conditions. Walmart must ensure that no worker is penalized for a lawful absence, even if they have exhausted their allotted paid time off. We will be reviewing and monitoring the changes to Walmart’s policy closely in the weeks ahead.”
A Better Balance’s lawsuit demanded changes to Walmart’s absence control policy, a point system under which workers are often punished for lawfully-protected absences, including time off from work due to an illness, disability or pregnancy-related medical condition, or to care for a sick family member. The company is planning to introduce 48 hours of paid time off (PTO) for all employees, which can be used when emergencies arise for employees or their family members so employees can avoid incurring points. Forty-eight hours of PTO would be the equivalent of six paid days off for those who work an 8-hour shift.
The experiences of ABB clients Kaitlyn Hoover and Leigha Klopp, who were both fired as a result of points incurred after they sought emergency medical care for their pregnancies, illustrate the damaging impact that Walmart’s absence control policy has had on pregnant workers. Both women explained to their supervisors that they needed to miss work because they were going to the hospital, concerned about the health of their pregnancies. They were each told they could go, but they would receive a point for the absence – and those points ultimately cost them their jobs. ABB urges Walmart to ensure that its new policy changes include assurances that workers will not be punished for any lawful absences, including those related to pregnancy and other serious medical conditions.
Furthermore, certain aspects of the proposed policy changes, such as lowering the threshold for points that can trigger termination, would make it even more harsh on workers. ABB remains focused on ensuring workers’ rights are protected, a concern shared by employees.
“We’ve been calling on Walmart to publicly commit to a healthy sick time policy that allows us to take care of ourselves and our families,” said Shashauna Phillips, an OUR Walmart leader and mother of six children who works at Walmart in North Charleston, SC. “This new policy shows what happens when associates put their voices together to call for respect. At the same time, we’re concerned that Walmart appears to be trying to make it easier to fire associates and creating incentives for us to come to work when we’re ill.”
A Better Balance is a national legal nonprofit fighting to give American workers the time and flexibility they need to care for their families without risking their economic security. We are a leader in the movement to reshape laws and workplace practices to fit the needs of today’s labor force. www.abetterbalance.org