Raley’s, the West Sacramento-based grocery store chain, is being sued for pregnancy discrimination by two former employees. Raley’s operates over 120 grocery stores in northern California and Nevada under the names Raley’s, Bel Air Markets, Nob Hill Foods, and Food Source.
The first plaintiff claims that in June 2013, five months before her baby was born, she told her managers she was pregnant. A month later, she brought in a note from her doctor which said she should not lift more than 10 pounds. One hour later, she was called in to the store director’s office and told that she needed to take unpaid leave and that the store did not accommodate pregnant women. She claims that she was devastated and never went back to the store. She also says that the store could have easily accommodated her. She worked in the deli and bakery. Her duties included packaging items, customer service work, restocking, and decorating cakes. The only things she couldn’t do were to lift boxes of frozen dough and fried chicken.
The second plaintiff says that she had worked almost three years at a Bel Air store in Antelope when she became pregnant. She told several managers about the pregnancy last fall and gave them a doctor’s note which stated she could not lift heavy items. The woman worked the early shift, and one of her duties was sweeping the floor. She was experiencing severe morning sickness, and the food smells on some aisles would trigger her nausea. She asked that she be allowed to wear a mask, which managers refused. She also asked once that someone else finish sweeping because she was sick. Last fall, the manager called the plaintiff into his office and told her that she either had to go on unpaid leave or be terminated. She is currently still on leave.
The attorneys who filed the lawsuit are asking for it to be certified as a class action case. They are also seeking all current and former Raley’s workers who were denied reasonable accommodations for pregnancy-related conditions within the last four years.
Federal and state laws make it clear that women cannot be discriminated against, terminated, or harassed in the workplace because of a pregnancy. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act, a federal law, forbids pregnancy discrimination. In California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act also forbids discrimination on the basis of pregnancy.
If a pregnant woman is temporarily unable to perform her job because of pregnancy or child birth, she must be treated in the same way as any other temporarily disabled employee. The employer may have to provide alternative work assignments, light duty, disability leave, or another option. If a woman has a serious health impairment resulting from her pregnancy, that may be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and an employer may have to provide her with a reasonable accommodation so that she can do her job.
Pregnant woman also have additional rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows certain employees to take time off work, and they cannot legally be fired during their time off. Once she returns to work, nursing mothers have the right to express milk in the workplace, depending on the situation.
As you can see, both federal and state laws have come a long way towards protecting pregnant women who are in the workplace. Unfortunately, this does not mean that employers always choose to follow those laws. If your employer has violated your legal rights by wrongfully terminating you because of your pregnancy, or taking some other negative action against you, call Oakland pregnancy discrimination attorney Micha Star Liberty at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000. She can help you with your case. Call to learn more about your rights.