Women Slam Walmart on Pregnancy Policies

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Citing what they call “the illegal and unethical treatment of pregnant workers,” a group of mothers who work for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) met in Chicago on Wednesday to develop a list of policy changes that are aimed at both accommodating pregnant women’s health and ending “widespread financial hardship forced onto working women at Walmart.”

The list includes a minimum hourly wage of $15; consistent, full-time work; compliance with the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act; installation of breastfeeding stations or family rooms in stores; and acceptance of pregnancy-related doctors’ notes.

In a press release, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and a union-backed group called OUR Walmart said the company did make changes to its pregnancy policies in March of this year. Walmart denies any connection between the policy change and a letter the company received in January 2013 from a group called A Better Balance (ABB) and another letter from the same group in January 2014.

A class action lawsuit was filed against Walmart earlier this year for “dangerous discrimination against pregnant workers,” and on Monday, another pregnant woman filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission related to her firing by Walmart “while she was at doctors’ visits related to her pregnancy.”

A report in the Washington Post from April notes that courts have generally sided with employers, including Walmart, that interpret narrowly the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. One employment discrimination expert at the University of Dayton told the Post, “[Walmart’s] policy is written in such a way that complies with federal law. It’s just that the federal law sucks.”

Regarding the policy changes related to wages, the press release points to a study by public policy research group Demos that found that $25,000 annual salary for full-time employees of retail companies that employ more than 1,000 workers could lift 900,000 women and their families out of poverty or near poverty.

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