Pharmacy giant Walgreen Co. (Walgreen’s) is being sued over allegations that they violated both the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and the Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (PDLL). Plaintiff Madelaine Esquibel is additionally claiming that they wrongfully terminated her, which she cites is a violation of public policy. The complaint, originally filed in Orange County, Calfiornia state court and removed to federal court Friday, demands a trial by jury and seeks a host of damages as a result of the unlawful practices.
In June 2018, the complaint explained, Esquibel began her employment with Walgreens. She described herself as a “loyal, hardworking employee who received nothing but positive feedback about her work performance from her supervisors and managers.” In November 2020, Esquibel found out that she was pregnant. Her pregnancy was classified as a high-risk pregnancy due to a previous preterm birth that she had experienced. After informing her employer about the news, she claimed that they did not notify her of her right to accommodations, leaving her to find them herself on the company website.
After she asked her manager for a modified schedule to accommodate her pregnancy needs and so that she could take her disabled daughter to speech therapy appointments in December 2020, her manager, Shane Chang, denied her request. Her assistant manager also denied her request to refrain from lifting heavy items. Despite her maintenance that her accommodation requests were reasonable given her daughter’s disability and her past health complications with pregnancy, the two managers said that she was “being lazy” and “taking advantage” of her pregnancy. Instead, they suggested that she start working part-time or take leave rather than ask them for modifications.
Esquibel kept working absent any accommodations, and eventually developed an infection because she was prohibited from taking bathroom breaks during her shift. In response to this, she procured a note from her doctor that requested a modified schedule with extra time to use the bathroom. Within the same week, the plaintiff was terminated by Walgreens due to “misconduct.” They refused to elaborate on the misconduct when asked to by the plaintiff.
The termination, Esquibel believes, was a direct result of her manager being “frustrated with her pregnancy and requests for accommodation, and seized a flimsy opportunity to pretextually justify her termination.” The practices Walgreens exercised in their termination of the plaintiff are what the plaintiff believes to be blatant violations of California law, specifically FEHA and the PDLL.
Esquibel is seeking general, compensatory, and punitive damages, litigation fees, statutory and civil penalties, injunctive relief, and any other relief deemed proper by the Court.The plaintiff is represented by King & Siegel LLP, while the defendant is represented by Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart.