Here’s a Mother’s Day story of a different kind: a pregnant woman in San Jose, California is being forced by her bosses to take her maternity leave now — before her baby is even born. Her leave ends on May 20. Her baby is not due until July.
Does that make any sense? Kimberly Erin Caselman, the 31-year-old expectant mother who now faces losing her job, sure doesn’t think so. She filed a class action lawsuit last month that aims to force Pier 1 to comply with California law in regard to the employment status of pregnant women, as well as various damages for Caselman and others whom the suit says have suffered discrimination because they had the bad judgment to become pregnant while still holding a job.
“It’s shocking,” the pregnant woman said in a Los Angeles Times interview. “They are having me exhaust all my leave before I need that leave. This is stressful financially and emotionally.”
Here’s what happened in the Pier 1 case: Caselman, a sales associate at one of the 100 or so Pier 1 stores in California — this one in San Jose — became pregnant late last year. Though her pregnancy was not considered a risky one, her doctor told her she should not lift anything heavy.
She had every intention of remaining on the job throughout her pregnancy, so she went to her bosses and informed them of the situation. They accommodated Caselman by giving her eight weeks of “light duty” assignments.
But when the eight weeks was up, in January if this year, she asked for more time on light duty. They told her to forget it.
Instead — though she never asked to be taken off work — the Pier 1 store placed Caselman on four months of maternity leave, forcing her to go home without pay. If she fails to return to work on May 20, she could lose her job. But then, she still has almost two months until the baby’s due date of July 7 — and her maternity leave will be completely gone.
“All I want is to keep working as long as I am able to before my baby is born, and to have a job to return to afterward,” the pregnant woman said. “More than anything, I hope to change this policy so other women aren’t forced out of their jobs or made to stay home without pay at the time they need their income the most.”
“What’s outrageous about this case,” said Legal Aid Society lawyer Sharon Terman who is handling the lawsuit, “is that pregnant workers are being forced out of their jobs when they’re perfectly able to keep working, and it’s happening at a time when they most need their income, when they are growing their family.”
Pier 1 declined to comment, saying the case was an ongoing legal matter.
Caselman’s case is not the only one in which a pregnant woman has charged discrimination. In 2006, a pregnant woman at a Kansas Walmart was fired for carrying a water bottle on the advice of he doctor, who told her she needed to consume water regularly to avoid dehydration and infection. But Walmart said that only cashiers were allowed carry water bottles.