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California woman sues for pregnancy discrimination

A California woman has filed a lawsuit against her employer, supermarket chain Albertsons, alleging that the grocery store's failure to accommodate the her high-risk pregnancy resulted in the death of her baby. The lawsuit comes on the heels of a recent report from the National Women's Law Center finding that pregnant workers routinely are subjected to pregnancy discrimination and denied basic accommodations needed to keep working during pregnancy.

The case against Albertsons was brought by a woman who had worked for the supermarket chain since 2007. Her job as merchandise manager involved unloading heavy pallets of goods. After she became pregnant, she notified her employer that she had a history of high-risk pregnancies and requested to be reassigned to a less physically demanding position. Despite providing her employer with three doctor's notes, her requests were denied. The woman continued working because she needed the money and health benefits.

The lawsuit alleges that in November 2012, the plaintiff experienced pain while working and asked to be released from work. Her request was denied, and she continued to perform heavy lifting. Later that night, she went into premature labor. Her baby girl died within minutes of birth. To make matters worse, when the woman returned to work after six weeks of FMLA leave, she was told she had been relieved of her supervisory duties and written up for unsatisfactory job performance.

The lawsuit raises multiple issues of potentially illegal conduct. First, California employers are required to make good faith efforts to reasonably accommodate their employees' pregnancies. The plaintiff may prevail on her claim if she demonstrates that there were other positions to which she reasonably could have been reassigned as an accommodation. Additionally, the law prohibits taking adverse action against an employee who takes leave for the birth of a child. An attorney may be able to demonstrate a connection between her leave and the subsequent negative employment actions.

Source: Huffington Post, "Albertsons Worker Claims Chain Is Responsible For Death Of Her Baby", Dave Jamieson, June 27, 2013

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