California has been a crucial state when it comes to pushing for better protections for pregnant women in the workplace. Too often in this country, pregnant women are maligned, fired and inappropriately taken care of in many other ways by their employers. They are put in a no-win situation when it should be one of the happiest times of their life.
That’s why it is so surprising to hear the following pregnancy discrimination story, which occurred here in California. A woman informed her employer, Pier 1 Imports, in November that she was pregnant. She had been at the job for two years and didn’t think this would cause a huge issue, and in the immediate future of her announcement it wasn’t.
Her doctors told her to not lift anything over 15 pounds or to climb ladders, and Pier 1 Imports accommodated the woman by putting her on “light duty.” But that only lasted for two months. When “light duty” ended, the woman asked for an extension, but Pier 1 Imports declined to acquiesce to that request. Instead, they forced her to go on unpaid maternity leave for four months, which raised a new problem: her maternity leave would run out well before her due date.
The woman has sued Pier 1 Imports for discrimination, and clearly she has a good case. According to California law, companies must provide “reasonable accommodation for an employee for a condition related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition, if she so requests, with the advice of her healthcare provider.” That did not happen in this case, and it is a reminder to all employees that even though you may want to believe that your employer would never do anything to obstruct your rights, these things, unfortunately, happen all the time.
Los Angeles Times, “Lawsuit: Forced on maternity leave, forced to return before baby is due,” Robin Abcarian, April 16, 2014