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Walmart’s $14 Million Deal With Pregnant Workers Gets Approval

April 29, 2020, 10:08 PM

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will pay $14 million to nearly 4,000 workers who say they were denied accommodations while pregnant, after an Illinois federal court gave final OK for the class action settlement in a case that sheds light on policies that can exclude expecting mothers.

The settlement, approved Wednesday, resolves claims that the nation’s largest employer wouldn’t give lighter duties to pregnant workers between March 19, 2013, and March 5, 2014. It also covers the costs of administering the settlement and legal fees and expenses.

In the original lawsuit from 2017, workers Talisa Borders and Otisha Woolbright said the company’s disability policy excludes pregnant workers, and that as many as 48,000 women were denied accommodations.

The final settlement covers 3,995 workers, Dina Bakst, co-president of A Better Balance, one of the groups that represented the workers, said in an email. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois had tentatively approved the deal in November.

“Pregnant workers, like all working people, deserve to be healthy and safe at work. This settlement will benefit thousands of women across the country, and we are proud of the results achieved for these workers,” the workers’ attorneys, including from Mehri & Skalet and the National Women’s Law Center, said in a statement.

Walmart said in a statement that the company is proud to offer a parental leave plan that provides birth mothers who are full-time hourly associates with 16 weeks of paid leave. The company has denied the lawsuit’s accusations.

“We’re happy both sides could come together to reach a resolution,” the company said. “Walmart has had a strong policy against discrimination in place for many years and we continue to be a great place for women to work and advance.”

Plaintiff’s attorneys with Katz Marshall & Banks, who aren’t involved in the case, previously said the settlement signaled that companies should be careful not to have policies that could potentially discriminate based on pregnancy. Light-duty accommodations can’t be offered to only people injured on the job, or to only people with disabilities. They also must be available to pregnant workers.

In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Young v. UPS created a framework for courts to evaluate pregnant workers’ claims that they were unlawfully denied accommodations. The high court said a pregnant employee can establish an initial case that she suffered discrimination by showing that her employer denied her accommodation request and had accommodated others “similar in their ability or inability to work.” Other cases are being considered by appeals courts to further test the standard.

The case is Borders v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., S.D. Ill., No. 17-cv-00506, settlement approved 4/29/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: Erin Mulvaney in Washington at emulvaney@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jay-Anne B. Casuga at jcasuga@bloomberglaw.com; Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com

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