Hobby Lobby, a craft supply store, has been all over the news recently for its stances on pregnancy. Earlier this year, in the case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., Hobby Lobby was able to convince the United States Supreme Court that it, a corporation, was capable of having religious beliefs, and that due to the company’s religious beliefs, it should not have to comply with the Affordable Care Act. Specifically, Hobby Lobby did not want to, and is now not required to, provide insurance to its employees that covers certain types of contraception. Now, the anti-contraception company has been accused of taking a seemingly contradictory stance — it is accused of firing a woman for requesting time off to give birth, which of course is what happens when one does not use contraception.
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No Time Off to Give Birth for Hobby Lobby Employee
Salon reported recently that a woman named Felicia Allen told RH Reality Check that she was fired for asking for time off to give birth. Ms. Allen started working at Hobby Lobby in 2010 as a part-time checker. Shortly after she started work, she learned she was pregnant. Since she was only going to be working at Hobby Lobby for five months before she gave birth, she was not going to be covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act, which guarantees new mothers time off for giving birth, so long as they have been employed for six months. So Ms. Allen spoke with her supervisor, and her supervisor assured her that she would not lose her job and that she would be able to come back to work after giving birth.
When she gave birth, she was fired. She tried going back to work three weeks after the baby was born, and was not allowed to return. Then, to add insult to injury, Hobby Lobby fought Ms. Allen when she sought unemployment benefits. Allen says the company challenged her unemployment claim by arguing that she could have taken “personal leave” but opted not to do so. Ultimately, Allen won her claim for unemployment benefits.
Employee Must Arbitrate
Further, Allen cannot sue in court, but must go to arbitration as she signed an arbitration agreement. This is a type of agreement that strips employees of their rights to sue in court. What happens is the company requires the employee to sign the agreement in order to work for the company. Then, if the employee ever wants to sue the company, he or she is prevented from suing in court because of the agreement. Rather than having the dispute decided in open court by a judge and jury, these disputes are decided by a private arbitrator, in secrecy. So while Hobby Lobby got to have its big win at the Supreme Court, Ms. Allen will not get her day in any court.
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