Walmart's treatment of sick days is often in violation of federal law, a New York advocacy group is charging in a study it released Thursday after claiming to interview more than 1,000 current and former employees of the big-box giant.
A Better Balance, a national workplace fairness advocacy group, charged in the study that Walmart has disciplined workers for occasional absences due to caring for sick or disabled family members and for needing to take time off for their own illnesses or disabilities.
The group claimed that some of the alleged practices violate the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
"Punishing workers for absences related to illness or disability is not only unfair, it's often against the law," the study said.
Katie Orzehowski, a former cashier at the North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, Walmart, told The New York Times, that she tried to use doctors' notes and hospitalization records to excuse her missed shifts during her pregnancy but it all fell on deaf ears.
Too worried about losing her job because of another absence, Orzehowski went back to work and eventually had a miscarriage, the Times reported.
"I still had a lot of bleeding going on, and that’s embarrassing, Orzehowski, whose story is included in the Better Balance report, told the newspaper.
Walmart officials told The New York Times the company had not reviewed the Better Balance report, but disagreed with its conclusions that Walmart is possibly violating federal law. Officials said that the company's attendance policies makes sure that enough employees are in the stores to help customers while protecting them from regularly covering others' duties, wrote the Times.
"We understand that associates may have to miss work on occasion, and we have processes in place to assist them," Randy Hargrove, a spokesman for Walmart, told the Times. He added that the company reviews each employee's circumstance on a case-by-case basis "in compliance with company policy and the law."
The study's executive summary called on Walmart to "not only to follow the law, but to work with its employees who have occasional absences related to health and disability. Walmart can do better, and Walmart must do better."
Walmart is one of the world's leading retailers, employing 2.3 million people under 59 banners in 28 countries, according to the company's website.
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