Walmart is being sued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for allegedly mistreating pregnant employees at one of the company's warehouse locations in Wisconsin. The EEOC is tasked with enforcing federal laws regarding discrimination in the workplace.
The complaint, which was filed on behalf of Alyssa Gilliam and others, states that the company denied unpaid leave requests made by pregnant employees, and failed to assign them with less physically demanding tasks, despite the accommodations that were supposedly being made for non-pregnant, physically disabled workers.
Alyssa Gilliam, one of the women affected by Walmart's alleged discrimination, worked at the company's Distribution Center in Menomonie, Wisconsin. At the start of Gilliam's pregnancy in 2015, she requested less physically-straining duties, as her role at the time required her to do heavy lifting. The company denied her request, despite their having a "light-duty" program that is set to accommodate worker's physical restrictions.
The EEOC's district director in Chicago Julianne Bowman stated, "What our investigation indicated is that Walmart had a robust light-duty program that allowed workers with lifting restrictions to be accommodated." However, "Walmart deprived pregnant workers of the opportunity to participate in its light-duty program. This amounted to pregnancy discrimination, which violates federal law," she explained.
Gilliam also claims that she requested a chair, shorter work days, or additional breaks, which were all similarly denied. Due to the company's alleged discrimination, Gilliam was forced to switch to a part-time job within the company, causing a subsequent pay cut and loss of benefits.
Walmart is also facing class-action suits in Illinois and New York as the company allegedly denied similar accommodations to thousands of workers in its retail storefronts. In March an Illinois judge denied Walmart's request to dismiss the claims.
Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said, “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.”
In 2015 the Supreme Court ruled that employers must provide the same work-related accommodations to pregnant women as they would for those individuals with physical disabilities.