Kimberly Erin Caselman, a Pier 1 employee, was already pregnant when she discovered her company’s policy towards pregnancy leave. After an eight-week period of light duty assignments, she was reportedly placed on upaid leave.
According to Think Progress, the San Jose woman had worked at Pier 1 for two years; after she got pregnant in September, the company asked her to get a doctor’s note describing any restrictions.
“I have some very mild restrictions,” she said, “no lifting more than 15 pounds and no climbing ladders.”
Shortly therafter, Caselman reportedly received a letter from Pier 1’s human resources department, notifying her that her eight weeks of light duty would be followed by unpaid leave. Unfortunately, the assignment expired almost six months before her July due date.
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This stood in contrast to how she had been hoping to handle working during her pregnancy. “My intent was to work until I was unable due to the pregnancy, but I was forced out months before I needed to be,” Casleman, 31, stated.
Caselman began researching the policy; after contacting the department and examining the employee handbook, she realized that this was, in fact, the company-wide policy.
“Any additional income besides my husband’s, who is the primary breadwinner of the family, is very beneficial, especially now with the new addition,” Caselman said.
Because she has had to take so much time off while still pregnant, she’s already eating into the total four-month pregnancy leave owed her – and she hasn’t even had the baby yet.
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“I am very worried,” Caselman said, “because next month I will have exhausted my four-month pregnancy leave. I’m not sure how much longer I have with the company after that is gone.”
On Wednesday, Caselman and the Legal Aid Society Employment Law Center filed a class action suit against the company, claiming that Pier 1’s current policy is in violation of California’s labor law. California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act was expanded to have a pregnancy provision in 1999, and requires that employers accommodate pregnant workers, while also banning employers from putting pregnant workers on involuntary leave.
Although a company policy outlines long-term accommodations for disabled workers, it does not have a comparable policy for pregnant workers. Caselman and her lawyer are looking for other women who have been negatively affected by the policy to join the class action suit.
Caselman has said that her ideal outcome “would be for Pier 1’s policy to change so that pregnant women can stay employed.”
Fortunately, Caselman lives in a state with strong protections for pregnant women. Other states have been passing bills called Pregnant Workers Fairness Acts, which are actually modeled off of California’s law. Although Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York City, Texas and West Virignia have all passed these laws, a federal version has been repeatedly introduced, only to go nowhere.