Under pressure from mothers working in their stores and women’s groups, Walmart recently altered its policy around accommodating pregnant women. As reported last weekend in the Washington Post, Walmart reworked its policy so that women with pregnancy-related complications that could be considered “temporary disabled” and would be eligible for “reasonable accommodation.”
While this policy fails to provide reasonable accommodations regarding physical demands for all pregnant women, it is a step forward in protecting the health of the most vulnerable pregnant women and their babies.
The change in policy comes after an intense mobilization effort on behalf of pregnant Walmart workers. Members of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) initially began discussing the troubles they had during their pregnancies online. After comparing notes, the women found that all around the country, pregnant Walmart workers faced very similar challenges.
“Lots of women are afraid to even say they’re pregnant at Walmart, because they’re afraid they’ll lose their jobs or be forced to leave,” said Tiffany Beroid, a Walmart worker and OUR Walmart member.
Beroid was one of the original members of what later became known as “Respect the Bump.” When she was seven months into her second pregnancy, she started experiencing complications. Her blood pressure would swing widely and her doctor insisted that she alter her behavior at work for the safety of her and her baby.
When Beroid took her doctor’s note requesting light-duty work to her managers, they waited a week to respond while she was unable to work. When they did get back to her, they said they didn’t have any light-duty work at her pay scale ($.40 above other positions) and therefore she would have to take a leave of absence.
“With no work, Beroid couldn’t afford tuition payments for her community college nursing program, which meant missing the final exam; she’ll have to take the class over. Her husband, a security guard, pulled 18-hour shifts to keep paying the rent.”
Along with her new friends from Respect the Bump, Beroid and others began to mobilize. In Minnesota, workers held an event around scheduling issues for single mothers. They sent a letter to Walmart’s headquarters about how pregnant women and mothers were being treated. A group of Walmart workers who are also shareholders put a resolution on the ballot of Walmart’s upcoming shareholders’ meeting calling for a change in pregnancy policies.
Shortly thereafter, Walmart overhauled their pregnancy policy. While the announcement is a huge acknowledgement of the workers who have been urging Walmart to change, they say there is still a long way to go. Now it’s essential that the new policy is enforced and that reasonable accommodations are extended to all pregnant women.