In a recent development, a former Trader Joe's employee, Julia Hammer, has filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, New York, citing pregnancy discrimination and retaliation. Hammer, 42, who worked at the Lower East Side location in Manhattan, requested a transfer to Long Island City in Queens in April 2021, shortly before giving birth.
Upon her return from maternity leave in August 2021, Hammer alleged that the company failed to provide her with a private and clean space to pump milk for her newborn. Instead, she was forced to utilize an unsanitary mechanical room, causing her significant distress.
The situation took a distressing turn when a male co-worker inadvertently walked in on Hammer while she was pumping on November 10, 2021, leaving her feeling vulnerable and deeply shaken.
Furthermore, Hammer faced another blow when she learned in November 2021 that Trader Joe's would be altering its health care coverage policy in 2022, leading to its cancellation by December 31, 2021. This abrupt change left both Hammer and her newborn child without health insurance. Consequently, she made the difficult decision to leave the company in December 2021 in pursuit of a job that would provide her with the necessary coverage.
The lawsuit contends that Trader Joe's revoked Hammer's health care coverage, citing her failure to meet the required number of work hours. However, it is alleged that the company failed to take into account her maternity leave when calculating the eligibility criteria.
Hammer, who conceived through insemination, also claimed that she endured a barrage of discriminatory and offensive comments about pregnancy and childbirth from co-workers and management at both locations.
Further, Hammer's attorney conveyed her sentiments, stating, "Returning to work after giving birth is difficult, but Trader Joe's treatment made it harder." Hammer emphasized that companies like Trader Joe's, which purport to prioritize employee welfare, should extend support to working mothers.
This ordeal took a toll on Hammer's mental health, prompting her to seek professional counseling and anxiety medication. Regrettably, this led to her discontinuation of nursing, causing her profound disappointment and guilt.
In response, Hammer's lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for emotional distress, financial compensation, and attorney's fees.
This case serves as a poignant reminder of the challenges faced by working mothers and highlights the importance of workplace policies that accommodate the needs of employees during critical life transitions. Trader Joe's, like all companies, must be held accountable for upholding the rights and well-being of its employees.