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Wal-Mart did not discriminate against pregnant employee, 7th Circuit rules

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals held that a woman failed to prove her claims of discrimination, retaliation and other complaints against her former employer.

Svetlana Arizanovska worked for Wal-Mart as a part-time stocker on the overnight shift. The job requires the ability to lift 50 pounds. In November 2008, she learned she was pregnant. She experienced bleeding during her pregnancy, and her doctor told her she could not lift more than 20 pounds. She was reassigned to work in the baby food and toothbrush aisles. On Jan. 27, 2009, Arizanovska learned she had miscarried.

In May 2009, Arizanovska learned she was pregnant again and told Wal-Mart that due to medical restrictions, she could not lift more than 10 pounds. She asked to be transferred to a position where she could fold clothes, but no position like that exists – employees who fold clothes also participate in stocking. The human resources and personnel manager agreed that Arizanovska should take a leave of absence. The company’s Accommodation in Employment Policy states that employees may be entitled to a leave of absence if they have a medical condition – including pregnancy – that is not a disability. The policy also states that an “environmental adjustment” in the workplace may be granted, but that “does not include creating a job, light duty or temporary alternative duty, or reassignment.”

On May 20, Arizanovska said she did not want to take a leave of absence and requested a light-duty job. She did not return to work after May 20 and miscarried about a month later. She filed suit against Wal-Mart shortly thereafter.

In Svetlana Arizanovska v. Wal-Mart Stores, Incorporated, No. 11-3387, Arizanovska claimed Wal-Mart had violated her rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. She complained that Wal-Mart failed to accommodate her under its Accommodation in Employment Policy because of her pregnancy and/or national origin. She also claimed that Wal-Mart retaliated against her for filing a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Finally, Arizanovska brought several state-law claims against Wal-Mart – intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, negligent supervision, and liability for its employees’ actions under the theory of respondent superior. The District Court granted summary judgment against Arizanovska on all her federal and state-law claims.

To support both her pregnancy and national origin discrimination claims, Arizanovska contends that two pregnant, African-American employees were treated more favorably and were allowed to work in aisles with less heavy items. But the 7th Circuit held the evidence contradicts that – neither woman had medical restrictions, and neither was assigned to light-duty work.

Arizanovska claimed that after filing a discrimination complaint against Wal-Mart following her first miscarriage, the company retaliated by placing her on unpaid leave. But the appellate panel found no evidence that the suggestion to take a leave of absence was retaliatory. It also affirmed the District Court’s grant of summary judgment against Arizanovska on her state law claims.

 

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