(San Jose, CA. April 16, 2014) Today, LAS-ELC filed a class action lawsuit in Santa Clara Superior Court against Pier 1 Imports, Inc. alleging pregnancy discrimination under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Kimberly Erin Caselman, the named plaintiff in this case, alleges she was denied reasonable accommodations for her pregnancy and was placed on involuntary leave per pursuant to Pier 1’s policy.
The complaint asserts that under Pier 1’s “light duty” policy, the company puts women with pregnancy-related conditions on “light duty” for a maximum of eight weeks and then automatically places them on unpaid pregnancy leave if they continue to need accommodations.
Ms. Caselman began working for Pier 1 as a Sales Associate in San Jose, California in 2011. In November 2013, her doctor told her she should not lift more than 15 pounds or climb ladders during her pregnancy. Pier 1 then placed Ms. Caselman on an eight-week-only light duty assignment, which expired January 16, 2014, nearly six months before her due date.
Ms. Caselman claims that Pier 1 violated California law by repeatedly refusing to accommodate her and by insisting that its policy precluded extending Ms. Caselman accommodations beyond eight weeks. Ms. Caselman believes she was able to perform her job while on light duty, but Pier 1 nonetheless placed her on involuntary unpaid leave. When that leave expires in May, Ms. Caselman will still be pregnant, and will still need her doctor-advised accommodations.
Pier 1’s policy likely adversely affects a substantial number of women employed by the company. For that reason, Ms. Caselman is bringing this claim on behalf of herself and all women employees who were, or in the future will be, forced to take unpaid leave after eight weeks of light duty.
“All I want is to keep working as long as I am able to before my baby is born, and to have a job to return to afterward”, said Ms. Caselman. “I didn’t ask a lot of Pier 1 – simply that they allow me to do my job while helping me follow the recommendations of my doctor. More than anything, I hope to change this policy so that other women aren’t forced out of their jobs or made to stay home without pay at the time they need their income the most.”
Sharon Terman, Ms. Caselman’s attorney, added, “Pregnancy accommodations are critical to women’s health and economic security, allowing them to keep working and supporting their families while maintaining healthy pregnancies. Pregnant women in California are entitled to reasonable accommodations on the job. It appears that Pier 1’s forced leave policy pushes pregnant women out of their jobs when they are perfectly able to keep working with the accommodations advised by their doctors. Today’s lawsuit seeks to ensure that pregnant workers do not have to choose between their income and a healthy pregnancy.”
California law requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers and prohibits employers from placing pregnant women on involuntary leave. The pregnancy accommodation law was enacted in 1999. A pending federal bill, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, would extend similar protections to women across the country.
Current and former employees of Pier 1 who have been denied pregnancy accommodations, placed on involuntary pregnancy leave, or who have information about this issue, are encouraged to contact Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center at 415-593-0081 or toll free at 844-269-0146.
About the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center | www.las-elc.org
Founded in 1916, the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center protects the rights and economic self-sufficiency of low-income workers by providing free legal services, education, and advocacy. LAS-ELC’s Work and Family Project advocates for the employment rights of pregnant workers, new parents, and employees facing family medical crises.