Former Trader Joe's employee Julia Hammer has filed a federal lawsuit against Trader Joe’s, alleging pregnancy discrimination and retaliation. In the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, New York, Hammer claims mistreatment and a change in the company's health insurance policy led to her coverage being wrongly revoked while on maternity leave.
This case highlights ongoing issues surrounding pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. Keep reading to learn more.
Insufficient Working Conditions for Breastfeeding Mother
Hammer began her employment at Trader Joe’s Manhattan location in October 2018 before transferring to a Queens location in April 2021 before giving birth. However, after returning from maternity leave in August 2021, Hammer claims that her employer failed to provide her with a private and clean room to pump milk for her newborn child.
Instead, she had to “rely on an unsanitary mechanical room” that was also used by others, causing her physical discomfort and pain. In addition, she alleges that on November 10, 2021, a male co-worker accidentally walked in on her while she was pumping, leaving her feeling scared and vulnerable.
Revoked Health Insurance After Maternity Leave
Furthermore, after returning from maternity leave, Hammer was informed that Trader Joe’s healthcare coverage policy would change in 2022. As a result, her healthcare coverage would be revoked by December 31, 2021, leaving her and her newborn without insurance. This situation compelled her to resign from her job to find another that provided her with the necessary healthcare coverage.
It is unclear what changes were made to the grocery chain’s healthcare coverage policy. However, according to their website, Trader Joe’s offers “medical, dental and vision plans to eligible Crew Members.”
In the lawsuit, Hammer claims her coverage was revoked due to her not meeting “the required number of hours to be eligible for her entitled benefits.” Furthermore, it also claims that Trader Joe's calculated Hammer's hours without factoring in the maternity leave she took. The result was that she fell short of the minimum number of hours required for insurance coverage.
Discriminatory Comments from Coworkers
During her pregnancy, Hammer received numerous “discriminatory and offensive comments about pregnancy and childbirth” from her co-workers and managers at both locations. Hammer is gay and became pregnant through insemination and as a result, these remarks had a significant impact and led her to seek professional help in December of 2021.
Hammer was prescribed anxiety medication causing her to stop breastfeeding due to concerns about the medication's impact on her child. Hammer reportedly felt extreme guilt and disappointment about no longer providing her child with breast milk.
In a statement made to ABC News through her attorney, Hammer says, “Returning to work after giving birth has many challenges, but the way Trader Joe’s treated me only made it more difficult. From the anxiety and stress every time I had to pump in that horrible mechanical room, to me and my infant child losing health insurance during a pandemic, Trader Joe’s caused me and my family to suffer tremendously…”
What Qualifies as Pregnancy Discrimination?
Pregnancy discrimination is an unfortunate reality for many individuals in the workplace and Hammer’s story is just one of the many. According to a survey, out of 2,200 respondents, one in five mothers have experienced discrimination during their pregnancy in the workplace and nearly a quarter of mothers have considered leaving their job due to a lack of reasonable accommodations or fear of discrimination.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), pregnancy discrimination can include any of the following and more:
- Discrimination in hiring, promotions, or issuance of health insurance
- Refusal to hire due to pregnancy
- Failure to provide reasonable accommodation to pregnant workers, such as adjusted workloads
- Reduction of hours, firing, or termination of employment
Experiencing Pregnancy Discrimination at Work? Call Us
If you or someone close to you is experiencing pregnancy discrimination, it's essential to understand that there are options for taking action. Reporting these instances of discrimination to your employer is a crucial first step and it is also essential to report it to the EEOC.
However, if you want a more personalized plan of action, working with a pregnancy discrimination lawyer could ultimately be to your benefit. Hiring our experienced pregnancy attorneys from Shellist Lazarz Slobin allows you to have a seasoned professional at your side fighting for your rights.
Our team has experience in handling pregnancy discrimination lawsuits and can thoroughly investigate your case. It's important to know that you don't have to face pregnancy discrimination alone, and having legal advocates on your side may make all the difference.
Call us today at (713) 352-3433 or reach out to us online to learn more about how we can help.