The Chicago Employment Law Blog

Employee Loses Suit Against Walmart For Causing Miscarriage

We blame Walmart for a lot of things. Their business policies have been blamed, fairly or not, for putting small businesses to pasture. Their depressed wages and benefits supposedly add to the shrinking of the middle-class. There have even been environmental pollution issues.

(And, lest we forget, their ex-CEO ruined the Kansas City Royals.)

What they cannot be blamed for, however, is Svetlana Arizanovska's miscarriages, reports the Courthouse News Service. Arizanovska worked as a stocker three nights per week. Stockers must be able to lift 50 pounds. When she became pregnant in November 2008, and experienced spotting, her supervisor reassigned her to the baby food and toothbrush aisles. She still miscarried.

Two months later, she filed a discrimination complaint with the EEOC.

Arizanovska became pregnant again in May 2009, and was medically restricted from lifting more than 10 pounds. She requested to be transferred to a job folding clothes, but no such position existed.

Walmart's accommodation policy allowed her to take an unpaid leave of absence, but did not require the store to create a new position, put her on light or temporary duty, or reassign her. She quit on May 20, 2009, and miscarried again a month later.

Arizanovska sued, claiming pregnancy discrimination and national origin discrimination. (She is Macedonian.) She claimed that two black employees were allowed to work in aisles with lighter items while pregnant.

The court dismissed all of her claims, finding that Arizanovska did not demonstrate that Walmart favored non-pregnant employees. In fact, the duties of the two pregnant women co-workers indicated a lack of discrimination.

The lawsuit begs the question: what accommodations do you have to make for pregnant employees? Employees are guaranteed unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, which covers pregnancy and the birth of a child.

In addition, ADA leave is available for those who are temporarily unable to do their job. As for changes to their work duties, employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for employees that can still perform the essential functions of their job.

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