Senators to Verizon subcontractor: End pregnancy discrimination
XPO Exposed Facebook page.

MEMPHIS — Nine U.S. senators, led by Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, demanded that Verizon and the subcontractor that runs its Memphis warehouse, XPO Logistics, answer published details about unusually high levels of pregnancy discrimination there – and take definitive detailed steps to stop it.

In letters to Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg and XPO CEO Bradley Jacobs, the group also demanded details of both firms’ policies on legal accommodations for temporarily disabled, pregnant workers, and their policies for preventing pregnancy discrimination on the job.

And in the letter to Verizon’s Vestberg, the lawmakers chide his firm for permitting such discrimination, especially by one of its subcontractors.

The Nov. 20 letters follow a New York Times investigative story a month before about working conditions at XPO’s Memphis warehouse. Its workers pack and ship Verizon devices.

The Communications Workers, who represent most Verizon workers, have often had rocky relations with that firm. The Teamsters, who represent some XPO workers, have found themselves walking informational picket lines, especially in the South, over working conditions.

The lawmakers also reminded both companies they hold federal contracts — $85 million in Verizon’s case – and that federal law comes down particularly hard on federal contractors who discriminate on the basis of pregnancy.

Pregnancy discrimination violates federal equal employment opportunity and civil rights laws, and those same laws order firms to make “reasonable accommodations” for pregnant workers, especially workers who produce MDs’ orders for such changes.

Yet at the Memphis warehouse, XPO routinely ordered pregnant women to lift and shift parcels and devices weighing 50-75 pounds each. They were also forced into excessive bending and standing for extremely long periods of time. In guidelines for care for pregnant women, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, bans such actions especially for women with high-risk pregnancies.

But XPO disregarded the guidelines, forced the women into heavy work, and higher-than-normal rates of miscarriages resulted, the letters to the CEOs said.

“Women should never, while pregnant or at any time during parenthood, be forced to choose between having a child and continuing to work to put food on the table,” both letters added. “Despite this, an untold number of women have been fired, passed over for promotions, denied otherwise-reasonable work accommodations or otherwise been discriminated against because of pregnancy or pregnancy-related medical conditions.”

“This inexcusable discrimination leads to lost paychecks, unemployment, retaliation or job changes,” besides the miscarriages at the XPO warehouse, the senators said. The XPO workers have also complained about sexual harassment at the Memphis warehouse and other XPO facilities in Tennessee.

Besides Democrats Blumenthal and Warren, Democratic Sens. Tina Smith (Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Kamala Harris (Calif.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Tammy Baldwin (Wis.) and Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), plus independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont signed the letters. The nine demanded the CEOs reply by Dec. 4.


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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