By KRISTIAN DEL ROSARIO
In June, Whitney Tomlinson, a 30-year-old single mother and packer at a Walmart Distribution Center in Atlanta, told her supervisor she wasn’t feeling well. She was experiencing morning sickness, which made her supervisor require her to get a doctor’s note in order for her to have a break.
The doctor was not able to identify any worrisome pregnancy complications, but suggested her to avoid heavy lifting while at work. After getting a note from the doctor, she handed it to her supervisor who then sent her to human resources.
She thought she would be granted a break, but it was not the type of break she had sought. It was not legal, according to a new complaint filed by Tomlinson to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Tomlinson was told to apply for an unpaid leave from her job, she was surprised and angry and was curious as to what she had done wrong. Her supervisor told her because of her “restrictions,” she was a “liability” and asked her to call a third party claims management service.
Walmart’s human resources told Tomlinson that she was not permitted to return to work until after she gave birth and she would need to apply for a formal unpaid leave of absence to avoid losing her job.
In 1978, Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. This made discrimination based on pregnancy and childbirth related medical conditions illegal.
Elizabeth Gedmark, a senior staff attorney and director for A Better Balance, said that Walmart’s treatment of Tomlinson was a violation of this act and that she needed restrictions to prevent problems before she started.
The news media have portrayed this story in a respectful but worrisome manner due to the immense detail about the issue. Stories don’t try to protect Walmart’s reputation because, at the end of the day, the business was unjust toward this worker.
Women are sexually harassed at work and it’s why women are discriminated against for being pregnant at work and it’s what needs to change.