Three legal organizations allege in a new Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charge against Walmart that the retail giant did not go far enough to offer reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers with temporary disabilities.

The National Women’s Law Center, A Better Balance and Mehri & Skalet, PLLC highlight in a Dec. 17 statement that the charge is on behalf of Candis Riggins, a former Walmart employee, whose job tasks caused her to become ill when she was pregnant. Her responsibilities included cleaning bathrooms with “toxic chemicals,” the groups claim. When she called in sick numerous times after an accommodation was not offered, the legal groups contend that she was fired.

In a statement, Randy Hargrove, spokesperson for the company, says that “Walmart is a great place for women to work, and our pregnancy policy is best in class and goes well beyond federal and most state laws.”

Meanwhile, the legal groups note that Walmart did revise its written policy relating to providing reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers after they filed an initial EEOC complaint in March. But according to Ellen Eardley, partner at D.C.-based law firm Mehri & Skalet, “Walmart has only made the only bare minimum of accommodations for its pregnant workers.”

See also: Varied response to EEOC's new pregnancy guidance

In the EEOC charge, they claim that Walmart discriminated against Riggins because of her “gender, including her pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions, and because of her disability.”

“Walmart has engaged in a pattern or practice of gender discrimination against female sales associates and in policies or practices that have a disparate impact against women,” the claim states. “Walmart’s treatment of Ms. Riggins does not comply with the law and confirms that adoption of the new policy has failed to ensure that Walmart will treat pregnant associates in accordance with legal requirements.”

But Walmart takes “each individual situation seriously and we'll work with our pregnant associates to make sure we provide reasonable accommodations when they are requested,” Hargrove says. “If a manager hasn't followed our policy, we want to know about it so we can address it and take appropriate action.”

Because Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and pregnancy, also requires EEOC employees to keep strictly confidential all aspects of the administrative process, an EEOC spokesperson was unable to confirm or deny the charges were filed. The EEOC looks into all filed charges to determine their disposition, which could include administrative dismissal, mediation or a complete investigation. If the EEOC determines there is reasonable cause for a discrimination claim, it is required to try to settle the case informally through its conciliation process. If this fails, it may file suit in federal court.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc., a legal challenge that could affect the future framework of employer pregnancy benefits and associated work accommodations. The high court, while it hasn’t issued a decision yet, is set to answer whether, and in what circumstances, an employer must provide work accommodations to pregnant employees.

See also: Employers eye Supreme Court pregnancy accommodation case

Court documents indicate that Peggy Young, a UPS driver, became pregnant in fall 2006. Young’s medical provider gave her a weight lifting restriction, which limited her ability to perform her job’s daily tasks. But her request for an accommodation was denied, according to court filings.

During the fall, the EEOC issued new enforcement guidance recently that meld provisions of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, as they pertain to pregnant workers. The agency’s prior guidance expands the breadth of "disability" as it relates to pregnancy under the ADA. 

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