A woman in Atascadero, California, has sued her employer, the Albertsons grocery store chain, for not accommodating her need for a lighter physical workload during her pregnancy. According to the suit, the continued physical demands of her job resulted in the death of her premature baby.
The 30-year-old general merchandise manager says she provided three notes from her doctor stating that she should not lift more than 15 pounds during her pregnancy. Her doctor determined that hers was a high-risk pregnancy because of a previous delivery at six months and the strenuous nature of her job, which requires heavy lifting and climbing.
According to the employee, she asked to take on a lighter workload or move to a different department during her pregnancy, but those requests were denied by store managers. Under California law, employers are required to make accommodations for pregnant employees. Albertsons officials contend that they have a policy of working with pregnant employees to accommodate their needs.
The suit states that one day, at twenty weeks into her pregnancy, the employee asked to leave early because she was experiencing serious discomfort. She says that her manager denied her request because of an anticipated visit from corporate executives. That night she was rushed to the hospital, where she gave birth to a daughter who died within minutes.
After taking the six weeks off after the birth that she was entitled to under the Family Medical Leave Act, FMLA, the employee says she was given a negative write-up despite only positive feedback prior to her leave. Further, her supervisory and ordering responsibilities were taken away.
The employee is suing the company as well as two managers at her store for violating the Fair Employment and Housing Act. She is seeking both emotional and punitive damages. Her case shows that despite laws requiring accommodation for pregnant employees and company policies that reiterate these requirements, women and their unborn children can still be put at risk by lower-level managers who do not adhere to them.
Many employees, like this one, continue to work despite the lack of provisions for their pregnancy because they need the income and health insurance, particularly with a baby on the way. However, anyone in this situation should definitely seek recourse. Attorneys who specialize in employment law can help to ensure that an employee gets all reasonable accommodations to protect the mother and baby.
The Tribune, “Albertsons employee not allowed lighter work while pregnant sues after losing baby” Tonya Strickland, Jul. 05, 2013