Government Agency Hits Walmart With Pregnancy Discrimination Charges

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed a lawsuit against Walmart Inc (NYSE: WMT) which claims the world’s largest retailer “refused to accommodate workers’ pregnancy-related medical restrictions.” The suit is based on activity at one location, and it is not clear whether the charge will lead to others.

The EEOC say the offending incident happened at Walmart’s Distribution Center #6025 in Menomonie, Wis. Specifically, the complaint reads:

Alyssa Gilliam and a class of pregnant employees at Walmart’s Distribution Center #6025 in Menomonie, Wis., were disallowed from taking part in a company program that accommodated other workers’ restrictions.

More specifically, the claim states:

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), which prohibits pregnancy discrimination in employment. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Walmart Stores East, LP, d/b/a Walmart Distribution Center #6025, Civil Action No. 3:18-cv-783) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin on September 20, 2018 after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

Beyond other relief, the suit asks for back pay, “compensatory and punitive damages”, and restriction on the way Walmart treat pregnant workers in the future.

The charges will almost certainly trigger investigations in other regions. Walmart management needs to worry these probes do not find a pattern. That would put Walmart on the defense both in reputation and the possibility of any substantial financial costs.

Whether Walmart is targeted in these investigations because of its size (it is the largest employer in the U.S. with over 1.1 million workers) or it balance sheet or not, it has regularly been hit with accusations of poor treatment of parts of its workforce.

Walmart is going to court, and the stakes may be higher than something which allegedly occurred in one location