Sept. 22 (UPI) -- The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit Saturday alleging that Walmart has violated federal law by discriminating against pregnant workers.
Pregnant employees were not given the chance to participate in a company program that allowed light-duty lifting while other workers with lifting restrictions were accommodated at Walmart's distribution center in Menomonie, Wisconsin, EEOC's lawsuit alleges.
"What our investigation indicated is that Walmart had a robust light duty program that allowed workers with lifting restrictions to be accommodated," said Julianne Bowman, the EEOC's district director in Chicago who managed the federal agency's pre-suit administrative investigation. "But Walmart deprived pregnant workers of the opportunity to participate in its light duty program. This amounted to pregnancy discrimination, which violates federal law."
The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Barbara B. Crabb, an EEOC statement said.
The suit was filed on behalf of Alyssa Gilliam, who worked at Walmart's center in Menomonie, Wis., and other pregnant employees from 2014 to 2017, a copy of the lawsuit obtained by NPR said.
It seeks "back pay, compensatory and punitive damages," and other "non-monetary" corrective practices.
Gilliam requested light duty transfer after she became pregnant in 2015, but the company denied it, continuing to require her to lift heavy items.
Because her request was not accommodated, she "had to take intermittent leave," and transfer to a part-time job, so she could "lift fewer hours per week," the lawsuit said.
As a result, she lost her benefits and received a cut in pay.
Meanwhile, non-pregnant employees with similar lifting restrictions were accommodated, the suit said.
Walmart said in a response it doesn't accept workplace discrimination.
"Walmart is a great place for women to work. We do not tolerate discrimination, and we support our associates by providing accommodations every day across all of our stores, clubs, distribution centers and offices," the company said in a statement. "This case is not suitable for class treatment, and we deny the allegations.
"Our accommodations policy has been updated a number of times over the last several years and our policies have always fully met or exceeded both state and federal law and this includes the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. We plan to defend the company."