Walgreens is facing a federal lawsuit after a store manager refused to let a pregnant worker leave and see her doctor after she began spotting blood, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The worker was told she had “already asked for too many accommodations” and was forced to quit her job in Louisiana, a complaint filed by the EEOC on Sept. 28 states.
She had a miscarriage later that day, the agency says.
Now the EEOC is accusing Walgreens of pregnancy and disability discrimination against the worker, who also has diabetes and hypoglycemia, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to a news release.
“No one should have to choose between losing a pregnancy and losing a job,” Andrew Kingsley, an EEOC senior trial attorney for its New Orleans field office, said in a statement.
Walgreens spokesman Fraser Engerman declined a request for comment from McClatchy News on Sept. 29.
The EEOC’s lawsuit comes after the agency says it tried reaching a pre-litigation settlement with the nationwide drugstore chain.
Walgreens hires the worker
On Sept. 17, 2020, Walgreens hired the pregnant worker, specified as “Jane Doe” in court documents, as a customer sales associate in Alexandria, Louisiana, according to the complaint.
The worker informed her manager that she was seeing a doctor for her health conditions, and needed to eat on occasion throughout her work shift, according to the EEOC. Then, the worker notified the manager that she was pregnant on Oct. 27, 2020,
Days later, the worker texted her manager saying she was unable to come back to work because she was feeling lightheaded, stating “I’m pregnant and I struggle with low blood sugar,” the complaint states. The text came after she said another Walgreens supervisor refused her a needed, 15 minute snack break.
The manager texted the worker back, writing: “[W]hen you go to [the] doctor in [the] morning we need something from [the] doctor with your restrictions and blood sugar issues . . . we need you at work so we can get ready for inventory or this will be job abandonment if no . . . excuse . . . .,” according to the complaint.
As a result, the worker came back and provided her manager, who was aware she was also pregnant, with a doctor’s note the next day, according to the EEOC.
About a month later on Dec. 2, 2020, the pregnant worker went to the bathroom and saw she was spotting blood, the EEOC says. She called her doctor and notified a coworker.
The sales associate told this coworker, described as a “shift lead,” that she “was sick” and “needed to leave,” the complaint states. However, the coworker ordered her to stay until the manager arrived.
When the manager came to the store, the pregnant worker told her that she urgently needed to leave, but the manager refused, according to the complaint. The manager said she could not leave until a replacement could take over her duties.
The EEOC’s complaint says “Walgreens ordinarily permits employees to leave if they are experiencing an emergency” and “it is not unusual for the store manager and the shift lead to cover for a customer sales associate when a replacement is unavailable.”
That day, the manager did not find a replacement and told the worker she was hired before getting pregnant, and now she “was not a good fit for Walgreens” due to her pregnancy, according to the complaint. Additionally, the manager added that the worker had previously sought “too many accommodations.”
At the time, the sales associate’s doctor texted her to call the office so she can come in for a visit, the EEOC says.
“The customer sales associate had no option but to resign, per her doctor’s advice” and ultimately had a miscarriage, the release states.
Walgreens is accused of denying the worker reasonable accommodations when it came to her disability, including diabetes and hypoglycemia, and her pregnancy, according to the EEOC.
In filing the lawsuit, the EEOC is seeking to have Walgreens make the woman “whole” by providing back pay, and other relief including reinstatement of her position and front pay, the complaint states.
Additionally, the agency says it is seeking to prevent Walgreens from discriminating against its workers in the future.
“Employers must do all they can to ensure pregnant workers are afforded equal employment opportunities,” Uma Kandan, the head of the EEOC’s New Orleans field office, said in a statement.
Alexandria is about 190 miles northwest of New Orleans.