In a prior post, we highlighted the plight of a pregnant woman employed by Pier 1 Imports who was allegedly forced to take unpaid leave when her weeks of mandated light duty expired. We feel the need to follow up on this story given that several important facts were not noted in that post.
The woman, who worked at a Pier 1 store in San Jose, was advised by her OBGYN to work within certain restrictions, including not lifting heavy objects over 15 pounds and not climbing ladders. The woman asked to be put on “light duty” activities for eight weeks, and Pier 1 obliged. After two months passed, the woman asked for another extension.
Unfortunately, Pier 1 reportedly rejected her request. Instead, she was put on unpaid leave (in other words, maternity leave) for four months. To make matters worse, when the leave ended, the baby was not due yet. This action effectively deprived her of the very leave she would need after the baby is born.
We must reiterate that it is illegal for an employer to refuse to provide a reasonable accommodation for an employee based on work restrictions recommended by a physician. If an employee is terminated or deprived of employment benefits, he or she can seek compensatory damages.
We also believe that this situation may not be an isolated case. The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act has significant loopholes that ostensibly allow employers to fire young pregnant women who sought such accommodations based on medical issues. Additionally, it is tragic that the women who desperately need the income are being treated this way.
Source: LA Times.com, “ Lawsuit: Forced on maternity, forced to return before baby is due,” Robin Abcarian, April 16, 2014