Under Minnesota and federal laws, when an employee becomes pregnant, her employer generally must make reasonable accommodations to her work duties to allow her to keep working as long as she wants to during the pregnancy. Reasonable accommodations could include getting her a chair, reassigning her to a different department or otherwise modifying her duties. The general idea is that a woman shouldn’t be forced to choose between keeping her job and keeping her baby.
That seems to be the horrifying choice one woman faced, according to an employment discrimination lawsuit she has filed against her employer, the grocery store chain Albertsons. In her complaint, she alleges that store management repeatedly refused her requests for reasonable accommodations for her high-risk pregnancy, forcing her to continue heavy-lifting and other risky tasks that ultimately led to the premature birth and death of her baby.
According to the 30-year-old woman’s complaint, she has worked as a general merchandise manager at an Albertson’s store in California for seven years. She claims that after she became pregnant she notified her supervisors repeatedly that doctors told her that she was at a high risk of premature delivery and other complications. She requested reassignment to a different department so that she could perform less strenuous work. Store management refused her requests and continued to require her to perform heavy lifting. The woman said she continued working because she needed the money.
One day last fall, while working required overtime, she experienced pain at work and requested to leave. She went into labor that night, but complications with the delivery meant that she didn’t give birth until days later. She gave birth to a girl, but the infant died within minutes.
The woman took six weeks off after the delivery under the Family and Medical Leave Act, but when she returned she found that store managers had demoted her to a different position, according to her complaint. The FMLA and anti-discrimination laws prohibit retaliation against workers who exercise their rights to take leave and to seek reasonable accommodation of pregnancy or disability.
Pregnant workers are protected under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which provides that if a woman is temporarily unable to perform her work duties, her employer must treat her as it would any other temporarily disabled employee. This includes making reasonable accommodations.
Minnesota workers shouldn’t have to choose between their jobs and their health. Workers who have suffered discrimination at work should get help investigating their legal options.
Source: Huffington Post, “Albertsons Worker Claims Chain Is Responsible For Death Of Her Baby,” Dave Jamieson, June 26, 29013