The challenges workers face when a serious health issue places their job in jeopardy.
Recently, a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit against a major retailer made national headlines, putting focus on the issue of the rights of workers when health risks place their jobs in jeopardy. The article spotlights legal challenges some employers face in their reactions to being told that an employee is temporarily impaired or unable to perform job tasks as normal due to a serious health problem. In the lawsuit discussed, a worker made claims that a major retailer engaged in discriminatory practices against pregnant women by refusing to provide reasonable accommodations for their physical health needs.
Source: The Daily Beast “Wal-Mart Sued Over Pregnancy Treatment”
“A federal complaint was filed Wednesday against Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest employer of women, for its discriminatory treatment of pregnant workers.”
To read more, visit http://www.thedailybeast.com/cheats/2014/12/17/walmart-sued-over-pregnancy-treatment.html.
According to another news source, the complaint filed against the retail giant is not the first, and a class action lawsuit was filed earlier this year over the same issue.
Source: Salon.com Report “Wal-Mart in hot water again for allegedly treating pregnant workers like dirt”
“…this isn’t the first time Wal-Mart has been in the news for allegedly discriminating against pregnant workers. In March, a class-action lawsuit against the retailer claimed it failed to provide “reasonable accommodations” for pregnant workers, resulting in a change in company policy.”
Many workers do not know how to best approach employers about whether accommodations can be made to allow them to keep their position. The fear of losing one’s job combined with questions about how they will pay for medical expenses and living costs if they are out of work prevent a number from fully exploring all of their options through legal channels that could protect any rights they may have to be accommodated. Some who do inquire about work policies designed to accommodate those with temporary disabilities say they are given the brush off or intimidated into quitting if they choose their health over their job.
According to the Texas employment discrimination lawyers of the Dallas based Eberstein & Witherite law firm, research further shows that workers who lose their jobs due to poor health may also face more detrimental outcomes than those whose job loss is attributed to non health reasons. Citing a University of Michigan study, Attorney Carson Croft of the firm says of the issue “the study shows that employees who face job loss because of their health suffer with depression and worsening health at higher rates than those who have lost their job for other reasons.”
As outlined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), being treated unfairly at work based on a change in one’s health condition is not only unethical, it in many circumstances is illegal. In cases of pregnancy, the law says that it is not permissible to treat an applicant or employee unfavorably in any aspect of employment because of their condition. Also there are several pregnancy related health conditions that are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for protected workers absent undue hardship.
When one is unable to temporarily perform a job without reasonable modifications as a result of a pregnancy related health matter, or other condition that falls under the ADA’s definition of disability, it is important to understand what legal options are available for maintaining employment if threatened with being fired, suspended, or demoted.
There are numerous online resources available to help workers who have been told they have to choose between their health and their job assess the legal consequences of their employer’s actions. A number of law firms that specialize in employment law also offer free, confidential consultations about such claims.