Wal-Mart spends about $1.4 billion a year on advertising, and much of that money is spent cultivating a family-friendly image. But their track record on supporting family issues leaves much to be desired. This week, a case in Antioch, California once again pulls away the mask from the image. A Fair Employment & Housing Commission in California ordered Wal-Mart to pay $188,000 to one of its managers who returned to work after a maternity leave, but lost her manager’s position when she went on leave. The Commission said Wal-Mart “willfully and consciously disregarded its obligations as a California employer.” Krista Jane Carver was awarded $163,000 of the total award for lost wages and emotional distress. The court also said that Wal-Mart is mandated to reinstate her in her former job as a manager. But Carver’s battle to make her company more supportive of pregnant mothers is not over. Wal-Mart now has the right to appeal to Superior Court in Contra Costa County. Wal-Mart tried to convince the court that a supervising manager misunderstood state law, but it turns out that Wal-Mart in 1998 was found liable for violating the same law.
Wal-Mart’s slogan is, “Our people make the difference,” but in this case it apparently made no difference to the company that one of its managers wanted to come back to work after being pregnant, but Wal-Mart filled her job in the interim. This is against California law, and no amount of company ignorance was going to convince the court otherwise. How many other Wal-Mart workers like Krista Jane Carver have been penalized for getting pregnant but needing to return to work to support the family? Carver took on her employer, and “delivered” a case that will help other of her “associates” maintain their job position and seniority after pregnancy. Chalk up one more victory for women workers at Wal-Mart.