- Michael E. Kanell The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A Griffin woman has filed legal action against Walmart for company managers’ treatment of her, charging them with discrimination against pregnant workers.
In a filing with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Atlanta, Whitney Tomlinson, 30, a single mother, is asking for an unspecified amount of money from the Arkansas-based retail giant, as well as for orders that would compel different behavior by the company.
“I want Walmart to make real changes so that what happened to me doesn’t happen to anyone else,” she said in a statement. “Walmart could have easily provided a way for me to keep working during my pregnancy, but they wouldn’t.”
Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said the company has not been served with the charge and will respond when it is. He said the company policies on pregnant workers have always exceeded requirements set by state and federal law.
“In this instance, there was not a job available that met Ms. Tomlinson’s requested accommodations, so as a result she took a leave of absence,” he said.
Walmart has about 800,000 employees overseas and 1.5 million in the United States. As of 2015, it was the largest employer in 20 states, including Georgia.
The company, which reshaped retail in the 1980s and 1990s, has been challenged recently by the online revolution and a very aggressive Amazon. But it has fought back with its own Internet offerings and currently has annual revenues of about $486 billion.
Tomlinson said she was a packer in a Walmart distribution center when she became pregnant. At one point this year as per pregnancy progressed, she sought medical attention and a doctor recommended that she avoid heavy lifting and wrote her a note to give to Walmart.
After she brought them the note, she said she was pressured to take unpaid leave. That leave of absence meant “severe financial hardship during an already vulnerable time,” according to her filing with the EEOC.
Tomlinson has support from three legal organizations that already have filed a class-action suit against Walmart for alleged “pregnancy discrimination.”
The groups are: the National Women’s Law Center, an advocacy group in Washington, D.C., A Better Balance, a New York-based advocacy group focused on family issues, and Mehri & Skalet, a law firm based in Washington, D.C. They acknowledge that Walmart has made some changes to its policies, but they argue that the modifications do not go far enough to comply with laws against discrimination.
After her daughter was born, Tomlinson returned to work at Walmart as a packer.