Employers can avoid significant risks if they take the time to understand the duties they have under the law. And it is easy to determine what these duties are when employers understand their employees’ legal rights.
A recent case highlights one of the duties that employers should not overlook: their duty to provide reasonable accommodations for their disabled employees.
WALMART SUED IN A CLASS ACTION CLAIMING PREGNANCY DISCRIMINATION
In October 2019, the retail giant Walmart faced a large lawsuit over claims of discrimination against pregnant employees. According to Forbes, the employees claimed:
- They received poor accommodations compared to other employees with disabilities or medical conditions; and
- Walmart’s policy listed pregnancy in a separate category than those conditions, which excluded them from obtaining certain accommodations.
Since pregnancy can cause health complications and even lead to temporary disabilities, the employees filed complaints that they were treated unfairly under the law.
Walmart denied these claims. However, they settled the lawsuit and agreed to pay $14 million.
WHAT CAN EMPLOYERS DO TO AVOID THIS RISK?
California employers can learn quite a bit from this case. If employers ensure they:
- Comply with the law; and
- Accommodate employees of protected statuses;
Then, they can significantly decrease the chance of both complaints and litigation.
That is why employers must understand what kinds of adjustments might be necessary. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provides a guide to help employers comply with federal laws. This guide states that employers have a duty to make reasonable accommodations, including:
- Providing an adjusted work schedule;
- Restructuring a position or the workplace;
- Revising workplace policies; and
- Increasing accessibility in the workplace.
It is important to note that the cost of making these adjustments is significantly lower than not complying with the laws that require employers to make these accommodations.