Walgreens Settles Discrimination Lawsuit Over Denying Emergency Leave to Pregnant Employee

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In a notable settlement, Walgreens Co., a prominent pharmacy and retailer, has agreed to pay $205,000 and implement additional measures to resolve a lawsuit alleging pregnancy and disability discrimination. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee, announced the settlement today. The lawsuit centered around an incident at a Walgreens store in Alexandria, Louisiana, where a pregnant employee with diabetes and hypoglycemia was denied emergency medical leave, leading to her resignation and subsequent miscarriage.

The Case at Hand

The heart of the lawsuit lies in the claim that Walgreens violated federal law by refusing emergency leave to a pregnant customer sales associate seeking immediate medical care for pregnancy-related complications. Despite her critical condition, the store manager insisted she could not leave without finding a replacement, an action that directly contradicted the reasonable accommodation requirements stipulated by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Facing no other choice, the employee resigned to obtain the necessary medical attention but tragically miscarried later that day.

Legal and Moral Implications

This case underscores a significant violation of laws protecting employees from discrimination based on pregnancy-related conditions and disabilities. The refusal to grant emergency leave not only disregarded the employee’s urgent medical needs but also highlighted a failure in providing reasonable accommodations—a fundamental right for all employees. Furthermore, this incident illuminates the harsh reality faced by many pregnant workers who are forced to choose between their health and their livelihood.

The Settlement

To address these grievances, the EEOC filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, leading to a consent decree that mandates comprehensive changes across all Walgreens’ retail locations in ten cities. This two-year decree emphasizes the importance of maintaining and actively disseminating policies that combat discrimination related to pregnancy, pregnancy-related conditions, and retaliation. Additionally, it includes mandatory training for employees and supervisors on recognizing and preventing such discrimination and ensuring reasonable accommodations are made without undue hardship.

A Step Towards Equality

Rudy Sustaita, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Houston District Office, stressed the necessity for employers to provide equal employment opportunities to pregnant workers, including considering requests for reasonable accommodations. Elizabeth Owen, a senior trial attorney with the EEOC’s New Orleans Field Office, remarked on the personal devastation miscarriages can cause, emphasizing that no one should have to choose between receiving essential pregnancy care and retaining their job.


This settlement serves as a poignant reminder of the ongoing challenges pregnant employees face in the workplace and the critical need for employers to adhere to anti-discrimination laws. It is a call to action for companies to review and reinforce their policies and training regarding pregnancy-related discrimination and disability accommodations, ensuring a safer and more inclusive work environment for all.

For more information on your rights and protections against pregnancy and disability discrimination, please visit the EEOC’s official websites.

Visit EEOC’s Pregnancy Discrimination Page

Visit EEOC’s Disability Discrimination Page

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