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Woman says Walmart fired her for ‘problematic’ breast milk pumping

Customers outside a Walmart store in Torrance, Calif., in May. (Bing Guan/Bloomberg News)

A Florida mother is accusing Walmart of discrimination after she said her managers harassed her and then fired her because her need to pump breast milk was “problematic,” according to a lawsuit filed in federal court.

The new mother, Kyla Alegata, alleged in the July 7 lawsuit that Walmart violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act by denying her request in January 2021 for a reasonable accommodation for “pumping breast milk and pregnancy-related absences.” Days later, she was terminated, according to the new lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida.

Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove told The Washington Post on Thursday that the company “does not tolerate discrimination or retaliation.” He said Alegata was fired for “excessive absences that were unrelated to any breaks or protected activity,” meaning that the firing was not related to her civil rights.

“We support our associates by providing accommodations every day and believe store management provided Ms. Alegata with the necessary breaks to express milk in a secure, clean and private area,” he said in the statement. “Our pregnancy policy has always fully met or exceeded both state and federal law.”

Alegata’s attorney was not immediately available Thursday morning for comment on the case.

Workplaces must give moms space to pump breast milk.

The lawsuit states that Alegata was hired in December 2019 as a deli worker and baker at the Walmart store in DeFuniak Springs, Fla. Soon after she gave birth to her daughter in 2020, she said the store manager and the manager of the deli department began harassing her when she tried to take breaks to pump breast milk.

Alegata alleged in the lawsuit that the room that was designed for her was kept locked and that she would have to wait — sometimes up to an hour — for management to let her in to pump. Once inside, she said she was “constantly interrupted” by others and would see men working on their laptops in the room while she was pumping, making her uncomfortable, the suit stated.

At one point, Alegata alleged that she provided a note from her doctor requesting a reasonable accommodation and was told by the deli manager that Walmart does not accept doctors’ notes.

On Jan. 14, 2021, she brought the issue to the general manager and two days later, she was fired, the lawsuit said.

Women share their stories of pumping at work. It’s not pretty.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against their employees based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 amended Title VII to include protections for “pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions,” according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The lawsuit accuses Walmart of sex/pregnancy discrimination as well as retaliation and claims Alegata suffered lost wages, benefits, compensatory damages and emotional distress as a result.

It states that Alegata filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC and the Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR) in September 2021, and in May of this year the EEOC granted her permission to sue Walmart.

At the same time, Hargrove, with Walmart, said in the statement that the FCHR “found it unlikely that any discrimination violating the law occurred in this case.”

The mother is requesting a jury trial.

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