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Pregnancy Policy Sign on Letter _FINAL_4.4.14

Pregnancy Policy Sign on Letter _FINAL_4.4.14

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Published by Lydia DePillis

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Published by: Lydia DePillis on Apr 05, 2014
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved


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 Dear Walmart: Too often, pregnant women working for Walmart are forced to choose between keeping their  jobs and protecting their health. Walmart claims to be a family-friendly company, but associates like Tiffany Lyons Beroid have faced this impossible dilemma. Without simple and reasonable accommodations that many pregnant women need at some point during their pregnancies, Tiffany was forced to continue working against the advice of their doctors, because they can’t afford to leave their jobs. Even with a doctor’s note, Walmart refused to provide modest, medically-required adjustments to Tiffany’s work, such as eliminating heavy lifting and allowing for breaks. To keep receiving her paycheck, Tiffany continued to work against her doctor’s recommendation. Ultimately, the strain was too much, and Tiffany had not only to take an unpaid leave, she had to go on full bed rest for the final trimester of her pregnancy.  As the largest employer of women in the country, Walmart should do more to ensure it is not only following the law, but also do everything in its power to provide safe working conditions for pregnant women. We, the undersigned, are calling on Walmart to adopt a policy that safeguards pregnant women by ensuring fair and equal treatment for them, so they need not risk their jobs to protect their health and the health of their babies. We are standing with Respect the Bump, the group of women and men who want better, safer working conditions at Walmart, and every day more Walmart moms – workers and shoppers – are joining us. We understand that Walmart has recently adopted a new policy to bring the company’s current policy into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, following the shareholder resolution proposed by two Walmart workers Cynthia Murray and Mary Watkines, a letter by A Better Balance outlining legal compliance problems with Walmart’s policy, and a claim filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) by A Better Balance, the National Women’s Law Center, and Mehri & Skalet, PLLC. We acknowledge this progress and recognize it will make a difference for women like Tiffany, who had a pregnancy-related disability. But Walmart’s announcement that it will adopt a policy to better protect women with pregnancy-related disabilities is only the first step in ensuring fair treatment of pregnant workers as required by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The new policy includes coverage for “a temporary disability caused by pregnancy,” but it is unclear if this will include limitations arising out of pregnancy itself, or only limitations arising out of an illness or injury or complication, since the word “disability” has many different meanings. Walmart needs to further revise its policy to make clear that it will provide reasonable accommodations to workers who have a medical need for it, regardless of whether the need arises out of illness or injury or a healthy pregnancy. The bottom line is that pregnant Walmart associates who have a medical need for an accommodation in order to stay healthy and keep their jobs should have the same rights to accommodation as associates who have medical needs arising out of illness or injury, since the Pregnancy Discrimination Act does not distinguish between these two groups of pregnant women and requires equal protection for all pregnant women.
 In order to stay healthy and on the job, pregnant women may be advised by their medical providers to limit heavy lifting, for example, or to take other steps at work to prevent future health problems for themselves and their pregnancies. They may need reassignment or a change in job duties. For some of these women, the cause of their limitation is pregnancy itself—not a disease or injury or complication related to pregnancy. But these women have the same medical need for reasonable accommodation as workers with injuries or diseases or other complications. They have the same ability to work. They too are entitled to reasonable accommodations under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
If Walmart intends to only provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers who have a need arising from an illness or injury, then its policy revision does not fully protect all pregnant workers who need accommodation and are entitled to it under the Pregnancy Discrimination  Act. Walmart should make clear that those pregnant women whose medical providers have imposed restrictions to ensure they stay healthy have the same right to accommodation as associates similar in their ability to work. Only then will Walmart be in compliance with the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
In addition to being fair and the right thing to do, providing reasonable accommodation to all pregnant women who need it would help the company retain dedicated associates, reduce turnover costs, and improve productivity. By reducing pregnancy-related turnover, the change would make more women available for promotion and facilitate an increase in the number of women in leadership positions. Walmart is well-positioned to lead on equal treatment of men and women and set an example for other major corporations in America. We call on Walmart to update its policy to make clear that it will comply with the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and ensure that it is effectively enforced, so all women who work at Walmart are afforded the equal opportunity they deserve. Please call or email Mackenzie Baris at (202) 213-6476 or mackenezie@jwj.org to discuss further. Signed,  A Better Balance Coalition of Labor Union Women
 Coalition for Social Justice (Massachusetts) DC Employment Justice Center Family Values at Work Jobs with Justice Labor Project for Working Families Maine Women's Policy Center Mothering Justice (Michigan)

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