The Washington Post's Wonkblog reported this week that Walmart, as of March 5, has changed its policies regarding the treatment of pregnant employees.
The changes are inspiring much controversy because, while they are a definite improvement over previous policies, critics say they still don't go far enough. Or perhaps it's more accurate to say that critics think the federal laws protecting pregnant employees don't go far enough – for all the criticim levied at Walmart, its current policy actually offers pregnant workers more protection than federal law requires.
As University of Dayton employment expert Jeanette Cox told Wonkblog, Walmart's “policy is written in such a way that complies with federal law. It's just that the federal law sucks."
What it says
Parsing out just what the law says can be fiendishly difficult even for experienced attorneys, let alone legal laymen.
For example, in 2012 courts ruled that a Walmart employee who'd miscarried twice while working for the company could not sue based on the company's failure to giver her light duty during her pregnancy, basically because the company has no exclusive light-duty positions and also because, according to the court ruling, the woman “has not identified a similarly situated employee outside her protected class - i.e., non-pregnant …. Both of the employees she identified were pregnant, and so we cannot infer pregnancy discrimination on that basis because there is no comparison between the treatment of pregnant employees versus non-pregnant employees."
Or, as Wonkblog said: “It's very difficult to prove discrimination if you have to produce a person in the exact same circumstance who got more help.”