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Can you be fired for being pregnant?

On Behalf of | Mar 1, 2018 | Employment Litigation

If you are a Florida woman who is thinking about becoming pregnant or already is, it probably never crossed your mind that you might lose your job because of your pregnancy. But before you laugh at the possibility of such a thing happening in 2018, consider the recent case of a Louisiana Walmart worker.

As reported by CNN, a woman working in the Walmart Distribution Center in Atlanta became ill at work last summer. She was in the early weeks of pregnancy and attributed her nausea and vomiting symptoms to morning sickness. She asked her supervisor if she could take an early break, but he told her she had to get a note from her doctor before he could give her any “special privileges.”

She went to the doctor and he wrote her a note suggesting that she avoid heavy lifting while at work. Since she had gotten such help in the past before becoming pregnant, she thought she could ask for the same help now and get it. Wrong. Her supervisor sent her and her note to human resources. They told her she must take an unpaid leave of absence until after the birth of her baby since her pregnancy posed a liability for Walmart. With no other option available, she took the unpaid leave.

EEOC lawsuits

Even though she returned to work after the birth of her baby, she talked to a family rights advocacy group during her enforced leave. They filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission suit against Walmart on her behalf, the sixth suit they filed in recent years. Two of them became class-action suits.

Walmart, the largest private employer in 22 of the 50 states, has a long history of pregnancy discrimination claims, as do other companies. The EEOC saw nearly 31,000 pregnancy discrimination claims between 2010 and 2015.

Federal protections

Despite the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act, many employers still do not provide the accommodations to pregnant women employees that the Acts say they must. So far, 22 states and the District of Columbia have passed similar laws. Bottom line? If you are a working woman, think carefully before getting pregnant. Your pregnancy could be a difficult one, but not for medical reasons. This information is provided for educational purposes, and should not be interpreted as legal advice.