America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses, Inc. was recently hit with a lawsuit alleging pregnancy discrimination.
America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses, Inc. is under fire in a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit. According to Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal, the retailer subjected a “former employee to discrimination based on her pregnancy and failed to provide her with a suitable place to express breast milk.”
Pregnant Woman; image courtesy of William Stitt via Unsplash, https://unsplash.com
When commenting on the lawsuit, Grewal said:
“New Jersey is committed to protecting the equal rights of pregnant employees and breastfeeding employees…New Jersey law goes farther than federal law when it comes to protecting pregnant and breastfeeding employees and employers must ensure they know what state law, as opposed to federal law, requires.”
At the moment, the state has issued a Finding of Probable Cause, which means “a preliminary investigation of a civil rights complaint has determined there is sufficient evidence to support a claim that a state anti-discrimination law has been violated.”
The suit was filed on behalf of Jalaia Hill, the former employee who worked at an America’s Best store in Burlington, New Jersey. The suit alleges the company discriminated against her when she returned from maternity leave and cut her hours from full-time to part-time. Unfortunately, being knocked down to part-time status meant Hill would no longer be eligible for employer-provided healthcare coverage.
On top of that, the suit argues the company “failed to reasonably accommodate her request for a place to express breast milk.” According to Hill, she was “forced to use an oft-accessed utility room that did not have a lock on the door and that was filled with boxes of supplies.” The suit further alleges that while she was “expressing milk, she was forced to lean up against the unlocked door in an attempt to ensure privacy, yet she would still be periodically interrupted by workers who walked in to obtain supplies.” To make matters worse, “she was frequently ordered by her manager to hurry up and finish because there were customers waiting.”
Rachel Wainer Apter, New Jersey Division on Civil Rights Director said:
“Employers cannot punish employees for having children or taking parental leave, and being forced to express breast milk in a room without a lock on the door, with colleagues walking in and out while being reprimanded to ‘hurry up and finish,’ would be a clear violation of the LAD.”
Hill began working for the company back in May 2018 as a full-time sales associate and was earning an hourly wage plus sales commissions. She worked more than 30 hours per week, so she was considered full-time and “received healthcare benefits for herself and her children.” On November 19, 2018, she went out on maternity leave and returned on March 4, 2019.
According to Hill, in February 2019, a few days before she was due to return to work, “she had a telephone conversation with her manager in which he informed her that only part-time hours were available because another employee had taken over her hours while she was out on leave.” Unfortunately, she was never bumped back up to full-time hours, even after she informed the “company’s district manager of her situation, and despite an alleged promise from that same district manager to arrange additional work hours for Hill at the Audubon store to qualify Hill as a full-time employee,” the suit argues.
America’s best is a nationwide company that specializes in providing eye examinations, contact lenses, and eyeglasses. The company has 700 stores across the country, including 15 in New Jersey.
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