A new federal lawsuit filed by Jim Garrity alleges that Walmart intentionally fired an expectant mother just 11 days before she gave birth, to avoid having to hold her job until she returned, as the law requires.
Such conduct by employers is hardly rare. Some will seemingly support a pregnant employee right up to the moment leave begins. Then, they cook up reasons to fire her (or fire her while out to prevent her from returning). Both are illegal.
The lawsuit alleges that our client, a Garden Center employee, could do her job while pregnant as long as she was given modest accommodations, such as a stool to occasionally sit on and the right to wear leggings. Leggings are perfect for expecting mothers because they stretch and accommodate the shape of the baby at the waist. Leggings resemble skinny jeans and are often visually indistinguishable from blue jeans or khaki pants.
The lawsuit contends managers first tried to severely inconvenience her and get her to quit by refusing to allow her a stool and by refusing to let her wear anything but traditional pants. There is research suggesting that prolonged standing can affect the development of the baby. And forcing a woman to wear regular pants can cause extreme discomfort because the waistband will not stretch to accommodate the baby bump. In this situation, the company eventually agreed to allow her a stool and leggings, but only after she fought for the right to do so. She could not have remained employed otherwise.
Even so, she paid the ultimate price. Just eleven days before she gave birth, the case asserts, Walmart fired her.
Garrity will be asking a jury to award our client substantial damages, including past wages, future lost wages, damages for pain and suffering, punitive damages and attorneys’ fees. He will also seek a court order forcing Walmart to rehire her.
Have You Been Fired or Denied Opportunities Because of Pregnancy?
Pregnant employees cannot be treated differently than any other employee. Nor can they be terminated just before they become eligible for FMLA/maternity leave. (Even if the employee isn’t yet eligible for FMLA/maternity leave, an employer cannot fire her before she becomes eligible in order to prevent her from using the benefits.) An employer must hold her job open while she is out, and must treat her the same as any other employee upon her return. If you have questions about your rights, or know someone whose rights may have been violated, please call us for a free confidential consultation at 1-800-663-7999.