U.S. agency accuses Walmart of pregnancy discrimination in lawsuit

Suit claims company denied requests for accommodation

U.S. agency accuses Walmart of pregnancy discrimination in lawsuit
A woman passes the logo of Walmart outside of a new store in San Salvador, El Salvador, on Aug. 21. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas

(Reuters) — The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Friday filed a lawsuit accusing Walmart of forcing pregnant workers at a Wisconsin warehouse to go on unpaid leave and denying their requests to take on easier duties.

The EEOC, which enforces federal laws banning discrimination in the workplace, said Walmart's distribution center in Menomonie, Wisc., has discriminated against pregnant employees since 2014. Federal law requires employers to accommodate workers' pregnancies in the same way as physical disabilities.

Arkansas-based Walmart, the largest U.S. retailer, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Wisconsin, stems from a complaint filed by Walmart employee Alyssa Gilliam.

The EEOC in the lawsuit said Gilliam became pregnant in 2015, and Walmart denied her requests for restrictions on heavy lifting, additional breaks, and a chair to sit in while working.

The commission said Walmart refused similar requests by other pregnant workers at the warehouse, but granted them for workers with disabilities or injuries.

The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits workplace discrimination against pregnant women. In a 2015 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court said the law requires employers to provide the same accommodations to pregnant women as it does disabled workers. 

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