Two former Walmart employees in New York have filed a class action against the company under New York’s law that entitles pregnant employees to reasonable accommodations. Under a New York law enacted in 2016, employers must provide pregnant employees with reasonable accommodations for pregnancy-related medical conditions, such as changes to their work schedules or leave from work.
According to the advocacy group representing the women who filed the lawsuit, New York is one of 23 states with a law that have enacted laws which specifically entitle pregnant employees to reasonable accommodations for pregnancy-related medical conditions. Maine does not have such a law and, thus, it is more legally complicated in Maine to establish that a pregnant worker is entitled to a reasonable accommodation.
The class action, filed in New York state court, alleges that Walmart violated this New York state law because it assessed attendance points to the two women when they had to miss work due to pregnancy-related medical conditions. According to the lawsuit, Walmart has an attendance policy, similar to many employers, where it assesses points to employees who have unscheduled absences and then disciplines them when they accumulate a certain number of points. The two women who filed the lawsuit had to miss work in order to seek medical care related to their pregnancies and Walmart held that time missed against them. According to the women, they asked if they could be excused from work for these medical reasons but Walmart managers refused and, so, the women had to choose between their jobs and their health.
It is well-established that employers may not count unscheduled absences against employees when the employees are entitled to that time away from work under certain laws, like the FMLA. The attorneys for these women are making that same argument under this New York state law.
New York’s law will make it much easier for these women to prevail because it explicitly entitles pregnant workers to reasonable accommodations for pregnancy-related medical conditions. Under Maine and federal law, there are a hodgepodge of laws that sometimes entitle pregnant workers to reasonable accommodations and sometimes not. The Maine Employee Rights Group is familiar with all of these laws and can determine whether you are or are not entitled to reasonable accommodations for pregnancy related conditions. If you are a pregnant worker in Maine experiencing problems at work due to your pregnancy, contact us.