On August 12, 2022, the Seventh Circuit held Wal-Mart Stores East LP did not discriminate against pregnant employees by failing to offer them light duty under its Temporary Alternate Duty policy (“TAD Policy”).
Walmart’s TAD Policy offered light duty to workers injured on the job who wanted to continue working and earn full wages, despite medical restrictions. Walmart did not offer the same accommodations to pregnant employees with medical restrictions, but instead required these workers to take an unpaid leave of absence. The EEOC argued that Walmart’s failure to provide light duty to pregnant employees constituted discrimination under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The EEOC relied heavily on a prior U.S. Supreme Court case, Young v. United Parcel Service, 575 U.S. 206 (2015), arguing that Walmart had to explain why it excluded pregnant employees and not merely show that the TAD Policy was motivated by non-discriminatory factors. Rejecting this argument, the Seventh Circuit distinguished Young, finding the employer there provided accommodations to multiple groups of employees, but not pregnant employees. In contrast, Walmart was providing accommodations only to employees injured on the job, and, therefore, it was not specifically excluding pregnant employees.
Further, the Seventh Circuit found that Walmart sufficiently showed the TAD Policy was not motivated by discrimination; rather, it reduced Walmart’s costs by eliminating the need to hire a replacement for the injured associate, and it reduced legal liability for Walmart under Wisconsin’s workers’ compensation law. Finally, because the EEOC did not introduce evidence that pregnant employees were treated differently from other similarly situated workers, it failed to show Walmart’s explanation was pretextual.