When a woman becomes pregnant, her body undergoes natural changes that may make it difficult for her to work in the same manner as before her pregnancy. For example, she may feel nauseous or need more frequent breaks to eat and stay hydrated. She may also be unable to lift heavy objects for the sake of the baby she carries. Women who become pregnant should not fear losing their jobs simply because of their pregnancies. However, employers like Walmart seem to be slow in getting this message.
The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act makes it illegal for employers in California or any state to mistreat or fire a woman just because of her pregnancy. Nevertheless, when one Walmart employee in another state requested additional breaks to deal with her morning sickness, her manager required a doctor's note. However, when the woman submitted her note to human resources, she was instructed to file for unpaid leave.
Other employees in the store had been allowed accommodations such as being excused from lifting or moving to another department when they faced medical issues. Instead, the woman was forced to take leave without pay until after the birth of her child, placing her in a financially desperate situation. Because she had requested reasonable accommodations and was willing to be flexible to the point of transferring to another store, she realized Walmart was violating her rights under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. She is now seeking damages through a lawsuit.
Women still must fight for fair treatment despite the laws passed to protect them from such discrimination. California employees who face similar mistreatment on the job may find it helpful to seek the advocacy of an attorney. With skillful representation, an employee may be able to fight discrimination and send a message to many employers about fair treatment on the job.
Source: CNN, "Fired for being pregnant: Another kind of discrimination women face at work", Elissa Strauss, Feb. 1, 2018