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Seventh Circuit Finds Walmart’s Light Duty Policy Non-Discriminatory

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit alleging Walmart discriminated against pregnant women because it only offered light-duty accommodations to workers injured at work. At a Walmart distribution center in Wisconsin, workers injured at work could benefit from the "Temporary Alternate Duty" (TAD) Policy. The policy allowed those workers to earn their full wages while medically restricted from performing their usual jobs. Walmart asserted it designed the Policy to comply with its obligations under Wisconsin's worker's compensation law while allowing the company to reduce costs and improve employee morale. Walmart did not offer light duty to any other employees, including pregnant employees. Pregnant workers had the option to go on unpaid leave or quit.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed Walmart’s TAD Policy. According to Walmart, TAD enhanced employee loyalty by showing a "caring attitude," improved the injured employee's morale, decreased recovery time, lowered accident costs, and reduced legal exposure by allowing the employee to earn full wages. Walmart complied with its worker's compensation obligations while benefiting from the employee continuing to work and avoiding hiring a replacement. The appellate court considered Walmart's decision to offer this Policy only to employees injured at work "legitimate" and "non-discriminatory." The Seventh Circuit distinguished this case from the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Young v. United Parcel Service (2014), where the employer accommodated drivers for a variety of reasons except for pregnancy. The EEOC did not provide any evidence that Walmart accommodated workers similar to pregnant women in their "ability or inability" to work other than those employees injured on the job. The court affirmed summary judgment against the EEOC.