PRESS RELEASE: A Better Balance Files Two Related EEOC Charges Alleging Employers Violated the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

The charges allege that the employers violated the PWFA by punishing workers for pregnancy-related absences and failing to provide reasonable accommodations. We are demanding that they change their policies to comply with new law.
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Pregnant Chick-fil-A worker alleges she was punished for missing work due to a threatened miscarriage: 

Today, A Better Balance filed a charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), challenging the attendance policies and practices of a Chick-fil-A franchise (“Chick-fil-A”), after the company disciplined pregnant employee Brooklyn Lawson for taking one day off work to recover from a threatened miscarriage.  The charge alleges that Chick-fil-A’s actions violated the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (“PWFA”) — the new landmark federal civil rights law that A Better Balance launched and led the fight to pass — as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).  

In March 2024, Ms. Lawson rushed to the emergency room after she began experiencing substantial vaginal bleeding and painful cramping.  Diagnosed with a threatened miscarriage and subchorionic hematoma, and advised to await medical clearance before returning to work, Ms. Lawson immediately notified Chick-fil-A that she would need time to recover — a right explicitly protected by the PWFA.  Rather than accommodate Ms. Lawson’s pregnancy-related medical needs, Chick-fil-A punished Ms. Lawson by assigning her “attendance points” for her pregnancy-related absence — putting her at immediate risk of termination under the company’s punitive attendance policy.  When Ms. Lawson complained about the unfairness of being penalized for her medical emergency, her employer callously responded that it was simply company policy.  

Chick-fil-A’s actions caused Ms. Lawson significant stress and anxiety.  “I lived in constant fear that at any moment they might fire me, for having too many attendance points.  It was so unfair — they were punishing me for having almost lost my baby.”  

“Employers routinely use coercive attendance policies like Chick-fil-A’s to punish pregnant employees for medical absences that are protected by law,” said Dana Bolger, Senior Staff Attorney at A Better Balance.  “It’s illegal, it’s chilling, and it keeps workers from exercising their legal rights.  It’s particularly disappointing that a company that claims to maintain a ‘culture of care’ would treat pregnant employees with such profound disrespect.  We’re fighting tooth and nail to end this practice, not just at Chick-fil-A but at companies across the country.”

“I don’t want anyone else to have to go through what I did.  Pregnant women should never have to choose between keeping their job and getting the medical care they need,” Ms. Lawson said.

Pregnant Amtrak worker alleges she was also penalized for attending prenatal visits as well as denied reasonable lactation accommodations under punitive company policy:

A Better Balance has also filed a charge with the EEOC, challenging the attendance and lactation policies of the National Railroad Passenger Corporation d/b/a Amtrak (“Amtrak”) for its failure to comply with the PWFA. 

When Locomotive Engineer Bobbie Roth requested to take time off near the end of her pregnancy for critical prenatal appointments, Amtrak punished her under its attendance policy. Amtrak then marked the first few days of the medical leave she took to give birth as unexcused absences, putting her at risk of losing her job. When Ms. Roth returned to work after medical leave, she offered numerous ideas to Amtrak about how to accommodate her lactation needs. However, Amtrak refused to make any changes to allow her to take pumping breaks during her shifts, and failed to provide her with safe, private, accessible pumping spaces. The charge alleges that Amtrak’s past and ongoing actions violate the PWFA, as well as the New York State Human Rights Law. A Better Balance fought to pass the PWFA to ensure that workers like Ms. Roth would be able to continue working throughout their pregnancies and while nursing their children, and is committed to holding employers like Amtrak accountable when they fail to meet the requirements of the PWFA.

Amtrak’s actions have caused significant stress for Ms. Roth at a time when she should be enjoying the arrival of a new baby, and have had a lasting impact on her income and opportunities for advancement. “I want to compartmentalize what’s happening at work from my time with my family, but sometimes it’s more than I can handle,” Ms. Roth said. “Figuring out how I’m going to keep working while feeding my child is a day-to-day struggle, and Amtrak has done nothing to help. Learning that I’m still being punished for going to prenatal appointments and taking medical leave has only made it worse.”

“It is unacceptable for a major, federally-subsidized employer like Amtrak to make no attempt to follow federal law,” said Chelsea Thompson, legal fellow at A Better Balance. “When employers punish pregnant employees for taking the time off they need to protect their health, it puts them in the impossible position of choosing between the safety of their pregnancy and the vital income they provide for their family. To treat Ms. Roth this way and follow by offering her no support so she can pump milk at work shows a shocking lack of concern for both changing the dynamics of Ms. Roth’s male-dominated profession and the law. We applaud Ms. Roth’s bravery for holding Amtrak to account.”

“There aren’t many women Locomotive Engineers, and there are never going to be more unless Amtrak supports us in having and caring for our families,” Ms. Roth added. “I want Amtrak to answer for violating the law, but I also want to make this company better for the women that come after me.”

The EEOC charges follow A Better Balance’s groundbreaking report, “Misled & Misinformed: How Some U.S. Employers Use ‘No Fault’ Attendance Policies to Trample on Workers’ Rights,” which uncovered that employers regularly and systematically weaponize their attendance policies to violate federal and state laws. 

Ms. Lawson’s EEOC charge is available here, and Ms. Roth’s charge is available here.  Information about the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is available here.

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