By RACHEL ABRAMS, JUNE 1, 2017 - A report released Thursday by a workers’ advocacy group says Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, routinely refuses to accept doctors’ notes, penalizes workers who need to take care of a sick family member and otherwise punishes employees for lawful absences.
The report, based on a survey of more than 1,000 employees, accuses Walmart of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act, among other worker-protection laws. The group argued in a lawsuit filed last month, and in an earlier complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, that Walmart discriminated against pregnant workers.
“Walmart should fully comply with the law so that no one is illegally punished for a disability-related absence or for taking care of themselves or a loved one with a serious medical condition,” said Dina Bakst, a founder and president of A Better Balance, the advocacy group that prepared the report.
Walmart said that it had not reviewed the report but disputed the group’s conclusions, and said that the company’s attendance policies helped make sure that there were enough employees to help customers while protecting workers from regularly covering others’ duties.
“We understand that associates may have to miss work on occasion, and we have processes in place to assist them,” Randy Hargrove, a spokesman for Walmart, said. The company reviews each employee’s circumstances individually, he said, “in compliance with company policy and the law.”
Katie Orzehowski says her miscarriage last fall almost cost her a job.
A cashier at the Walmart in North Huntingdon, Pa., Ms. Orzehowski said she tried to use doctors’ notes and hospitalization records to excuse her missed shifts, to no avail. Worried that another absence would get her fired, she went back to work.
“I still had a lot of bleeding going on, and that’s embarrassing,” Ms. Orzehowski, 26, said.
Her account is one of dozens included in the report, which clashes with the company’s recent efforts to project a more worker-friendly image.
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