A retail store employee has the mixed blessing and curse of excitedly anticipating the birth of her second child, while simultaneously fearing the loss of her job due her employer’s policies. Rather than allow the employee to continue working with a “light duty” restriction, the employer forced her onto maternity leave, scheduled to run out more than a month before the baby is due. As a result of the employer’s refusal to provide the employee with a reasonable accommodation of her pregnancy-related disability, the employee has sued her employer for violating the Fair Employment and Housing Act in Santa Clara County Superior Court.
Kimberley Caselman was a Pier 1 sales associate in San Jose who was two months pregnant in November 2013. At that time, the employee disclosed her pregnancy, and informed her employer that her doctor recommended that she refrain from climbing ladders or lifting objects heavier than 15 pounds. Pier 1 placed her on “light duty” work for eight weeks.
At the end of that period, Caselman asked to continue working under the “light duty” limitation. The employer refused, instead forcing the employer to go on unpaid medical leave, starting in January and ending on May 20. The employee stated in her complaint that, if she cannot return to work on May 20, she expects Pier 1 will fire her, or else keep her on unpaid leave (which would leave her without the post-leave job protection afforded under California’s Pregnancy Disability Leave law).
Caselman’s baby is due in early July.
California employees have a degree of advantage over employees in other states because of the FEHA. The FEHA requires employers, if presented with an employee who is disabled as a result of her pregnancy, childbirth or related condition, to provide that employee with a reasonable accommodation, if the employee requests the accommodation and is acting under the advice of medical provider.
As a result of the employer’s abject refusal to accommodate Caselman, she sued Pier 1. In her class action, Caselman alleged that her was not a unique case but, rather, Pier 1 treated all pregnant employees likewise: namely, giving them up to eight weeks of light duty work, followed by the forcing those employees onto unpaid leave without engaging in any sort of interactive process. Caselman asserted that she and similarly situated pregnant Pier 1 employees were illegally placed on leave. She wanted to continue working and asked to continue working, subject to the reasonable accommodation she had received during the previous eight weeks. By unilaterally refusing all requests for accommodations after eight weeks, without providing any type of interactive process, the employer violated the FEHA’s prohibition against discrimination based upon a pregnancy-related disability.
Employers bear clear obligations in California to refrain from discriminating against employees with disabilities, including temporary disabilities brought on by pregnancy or childbirth. If your employer has discriminated against you based upon your pregnancy or pregnancy-related disability, contact the Oakland employment attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen M. Fuerch. Our employment attorneys can provide you with sound advice and zealous representation in seeking to protect your right to continue working while pregnant. Contact us through our website or call our office at (925) 463-1073 to schedule your confidential initial consultation today.
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