An expectant mother who works for Pier 1 Imports has filed a lawsuit challenging the company’s policies toward pregnant employees, alleging that the retailer forced her to take unpaid leave during her pregnancy.
The law suit was filed by Kimberly Caselman in California state court last week; according to documents, Pier 1’s practice of moving pregnant workers into 2 months of light duty and then putting them on unpaid maternity leave violates state discrimination laws. Caselman claimed that she could have continued performing all job duties with just a few minor accommodations. “I really liked my job and I wanted to continue there,” said Caselman, 31, of San Jose. “They stand for a lot of things that I stand for, up until it comes to accommodating for pregnancies.”
A representative for Pier 1 declined to comment on the lawsuit or its policies on pregnant workers.
According to the lawsuit, Caselman’s doctor recommended that she refrain from lifting more than 15 pounds and from climbing ladders at her store. Following that recommendation, Caselman’s supervisor moved her to a light duty position, until those eight weeks ended in January.
Caselman asked the company’s human resources department to allow her to continue working under minor restrictions, but she was told that eight weeks was the most light duty any employee could receive under company policy.
California law requires employers to offer pregnant workers “reasonable accommodation” at work when those modifications are recommended by a doctor. Caselman’s lawyer argues that the policy contravenes state law by restricting workers to an 8-week window for light duty. “The law also forbids employers from placing pregnant women on leave when they haven’t asked for leave,” her lawyer explained. “That’s what happened here. My client, like a lot of women, had minor restrictions that could have been easily accommodated by her employer.”
Caselman has been an employee with Pier 1 for two years on a part-time basis, usually putting in about 18 hours a week. The loss of this supplemental income has been a hardship for her family (the baby is due in summer).
Caselman is bringing a class-action lawsuit, even though she was the only named plaintiff at the time of filing. The Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, a non-profit focusing on employment law, filed the suit on her behalf.
Other states have taken measures to protect workers from illegal workplace practices like this. New York state passed a law that protects employees who are fired or pressured to go on unpaid leave because of pregnancy. The law quickly helped a thrift store worker in the Bronx win her job back.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, proposed by Democrats in Congress, would strengthen existing federal law by making it mandatory for employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers. It would also forbid employers from forcing such workers to go on unpaid leave. As of this writing, the bill hasn’t passed either the House or the Senate.
If you have experienced discrimination in the workplace, a violation of FMLA or ADA, or have suffered a work injuryand need help recovering your workers compensation benefits fromtheDepartment of Labor and Industries, contact a Seattle Workers Compensation Attorneys at Emery Reddy. Our L&I Lawyers also provide guidance to workers who have been ordered to complete anIndependent Medical Examination, or who have other difficulties with their L&I claim.