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Must you take unpaid leave from work if you are pregnant?

As a female worker in Florida, you might have said "NO” in answer to that question, thinking that women are treated as equals of men in 2018. Sadly, however, the answer is sometimes yes, and Walmart seems to be one of the biggest offenders when it comes to pregnancy discrimination. This mega-company is the largest private employer in almost half the states in the country, and you may face discrimination from your own employer if you become pregnant or you already are.

Last summer a woman employed at the Walmart Distribution Center in Atlanta, Georgia, became ill at work one morning. In her early stage of pregnancy, she knew her symptoms were due to the morning sickness that many expectant moms suffer. She therefore asked her male supervisor if she could take an early break. He denied her request, saying that she was asking for a “special privilege” that he could not grant without a note from her doctor, which she did not have at that point.

Walmart’s policy on pregnancy

When the woman saw her doctor, he gave her a note saying, among other things, that she should not lift heavy objects while pregnant. She showed this note to her supervisor, thinking that since co-workers had helped her lift heavy items prior to her pregnancy, this would present no problem now. She thought wrong.

Her supervisor immediately sent her to the human resources department. They told her she must immediately go on unpaid leave since her pregnancy posed a liability for Walmart. Astonished, humiliated and angry, the woman nevertheless agreed to take the unpaid leave because she feared Walmart would fire her outright if she refused. Months later, she returned to work after giving birth.

EEOC lawsuits

While on leave, and still smarting from her employer’s discriminatory treatment, the woman contacted a local group that advocates for family rights. On hearing her story, they filed a lawsuit on her behalf with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claiming pregnancy discrimination. They told her it was the sixth lawsuit of this type they had filed in recent years. Per the EEOC’s own records, around 31,000 similarly situated woman filed pregnancy discrimination lawsuits between 2010 and 2015.

If you suffer pregnancy discrimination or any other type of gender-based discrimination at your workplace, you too may have a valid claim against your employer.

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