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Walmart pregnancy accommodation case may push Congress to act

Walmart store exterior (wolterke/Deposit Photos)

In August, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision holding that Walmart’s policy of refusing to provide light duty assignments to pregnant workers did not violate current law.

In the case, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) argued that Walmart’s policy of offering light duty to workers injured on the job but not to pregnant employees with medical restrictions constituted discrimination under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The court found that Walmart only provided accommodations to employees injured on the job, not to other groups of employees. Therefore, the policy did not specifically exclude pregnant women. Further, the court found that Walmart showed their policy was not motivated by discrimination but, in part, an effort to reduce legal liability under workers’ compensation laws.

The court also found the EEOC did not introduce sufficient evident to show that pregnant employees were treated differently than other workers with medical restrictions.

Under existing law, in order for workers to be entitled to accommodations for pregnancy-related medical needs, they must show that their employer accommodates other workers in similar situations.

A Better Balance, a nonprofit worker advocacy group, has since reported that Walmart’s policy no longer excludes pregnant workers from light duty accommodation.

The organization is lobbying for passage of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), which would provide pregnant workers with the right to accommodations they need to stay healthy on the job.

The PWFA passed the House in May, and A Better Balance says the act has the votes it needs to pass the Senate.

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