Wal-Mart Is Screwing Over Its Pregnant Employees, And It Should Make You Furious

Pregnancy discrimination at workAn awesome group of female Walmart employees met Wednesday in Chicago to draw up a list of policy changes they want Walmart to make. They want Walmart to be a safer workplace for pregnant women, and a company that supports its working moms instead of completely screwing them. (That last part was all me, not them. Well, maybe also them.)

But wait, this is Walmart, right? The company that boasted in its 2012 Workplace Diversity Report that:

Approximately 57 percent of our U.S. workforce is comprised of women, compared to 48.3 percent in the retail industry and 46.9 percent in the U.S. labor force.

27 percent of Walmart’s U.S. officers are women, compared to 17.9 percent in the retail industry and 14.3 percent in U.S. business.


Wow! That sounds like a company that is supportive of women and their needs! Right? No? Kinda the opposite, actually? Hm. That’s more than a little fucked up.

Here are some of the outrageous demands that these women are asking the company to publicly commit to, as outlined in People’s World:

  • Raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
  • Provide consistent, full-time work so that women can support their families and find childcare.
  • Immediate compliance with the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
  • Adopt a policy that is in line with the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which would require employers to reasonably accommodate pregnant workers who need it so that they can continue working safely through their pregnancies.
  • Install breastfeeding stations or family rooms in stores.
  • Accept pregnancy-related doctors’ notes.

Holy shit. They aren’t doing any of that?! No, they’re not. And here are a few examples of how this is affecting their female workers.

Be’net Holmes was four months pregnant when she asked for a reasonable accommodation at her job because she was starting to have trouble lifting the heavier, 50-pound boxes. Her manager said no, arguing that when Moore accepted the job she knew that lifting heavy boxes were part of her job duties. The next day, Holmes had a miscarriage while at work.

Thelma Moore was early in her pregnancy when she was hired by Walmart. On one of her days off she went to the store to do some shopping, and some television sets fell on her. Fell on her, y’all. She went to the doctor with heavy bleeding (luckily, the baby was fine) and an injured ankle, which required her to use crutches. When she went to Walmart the next day to fill out some medical papers, she was told she needed to come to work that night. Well, she couldn’t, because she was bleeding and on crutches. She ended up missing a few days of work till her doctor cleared her to go on light duty, but after weeks of phone calls from her trying to get back on the schedule, Walmart contacted her and said she was fired for missing too many days of work.

Moore filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission earlier this year.

Walmart did change some of its policies in March by lumping pregnant workers in under the protections they had in place for disabled workers. However, advocates for women workers warned that the language was too vague to make any meaningful change. And they were right, because not long after those changes a woman named Candis Riggins was refused pregnancy-related accommodations for her job and then fired for too many absences. Thanks for peeing on my leg and telling me it’s raining, Walmart.

Part of the problem here is that everything is a problem right up to the federal level. According to 24/7 Wall Street:

A report in the Washington Post from April notes that courts have generally sided with employers, including Walmart, that interpret narrowly the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. One employment discrimination expert at the University of Dayton told the Post, ”[Walmart’s] policy is written in such a way that complies with federal law. It’s just that the federal law sucks.”

Ah. So we are screwed al the way from the top down, huh? Yes, this 35-year-old law, which seems pretty straight-forward, has been subject to a lot of what we’ll call “misinterpretation” over the years. Just last year over 5,000 pregnancy discrimination cases were filed in the U.S., and this summer the EEOC had to issue new guidelines reminding employers that pregnant workers may need accommodations on the job, that lactation is a covered pregnancy-related condition, and that they can’t demote or fire women for announcing that they are pregnant.

How is this confusing? More importantly, how is this still an issue? I’m going to make tee-shirts that say, “Pregnancy Happens. Deal With It,” because, for some employers, it still doesn’t appear to be acceptable or workable at their businesses.

(Photo: Bikeriderlondon / Shutterstock)

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