In a lawsuit that should be every retail HR executive's worst nightmare, an Albertsons associate describes an uncaring management team that ignored multiple doctors' notes from the pregnant associate and forced her to do heavy lifting.
"On Nov. 12, 2012, (the associate told her manager) that she was experiencing tremendous pelvic pressure and requested permission to leave work. (Supervisor) denied (associate's) request, saying that he was expecting a store visit from Albertson's corporate representatives and needed her to stay," the lawsuit said.
She was shortly hospitalized and her brain-damaged baby died within 10 minutes of being born. When she returned to work, the lawsuit said, Albertsons "retaliated against her by eliminating her supervisory and merchandise ordering responsibilities. When asked why she was being punished, her manager said that she should be happier that he made her job easier. The associate replied, according to the lawsuit, "I lost my baby for this job. Why didn't you give me help when I was pregnant and asked for it?"
It's obviously unclear the full context of what happened and, even if all of the lawsuit allegations are ultimately proven, it might be just one wayward store and possibly just one manager. But that won't matter in court. How much discretion is in the average chain's pregnancy policy? If a pregnant associate asks for restricted duties—especially if she offers a doctor's note—why wouldn't policy require that request to be granted?
If an associate complains of extreme pain and asks to leave, what possible justification would be there for denying that request for a visibly pregnant associate? What message does that refusal send to that associate and every other associate who is either in earshot or who is told by the first associate?
As in a recent problem that Whole Foods suffered over a Spanish language memo, the problem is sometimes not policy as much as how policy is communicated. Line managers worry about day-to-day production issues and might be focusing on how decisions will sound to other associates or to a jury. That's why such policies—and training—are so crucial.
Even if some of these allegations don't hold up, once the jury learns that the plaintiff was an associate who lost her baby after being denied modified duties, you've already lost.
- See this Huffington Post story
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