Gooding v. Walgreens Home Care Inc.
Allegations that an employer transferred a pregnant worker to another department, in an attempt to accommodate a doctor's restrictions on lifting, and that the worker was unable to meet performance goals for the new job, may be insufficient to prove discrimination on the basis of pregnancy or gender. In July 2009, Walgreens hired the plaintiff, Amanda Gooding, who worked in the shipping department, placing merchandise in trucks. In September, Gooding informed Walgreens that she was pregnant. Her doctor restricted her to lifting no more than 25 pounds. Walgreens transferred Gooding to another department, known as AKL, where she was responsible to pick items from bins and place them in totes on a conveyor belt. Gooding's doctor temporarily lifted and then reinstated her lifting restriction. In response, Walgreens transferred Gooding to shipping and then back to AKL. In November, her productivity was only at 72 percent of her goal. Walgreens offered Gooding the option to take an unpaid leave of absence, collect medical benefits and return to the shipping department when her pregnancy ended. Gooding did not apply for the unpaid leave. In December, Walgreens discharged Gooding. Gooding sued, alleging discrimination on the basis of gender and pregnancy. To prevail, Gooding must prove: 1.) she belonged to a protected class; 2.) she performed her job satisfactorily; and 3.) she suffered an adverse employment action in circumstances that led to an inference of discrimination. "[T]he evidence, rather than creating an inference of discrimination," wrote the court, "suggests that Walgreens attempted to accommodate Gooding." Gooding was unable to meet productivity goals in her new job. Gooding's co-workers in the AKL department had significantly higher productivity rates after 45 days of work. Gooding failed to prove that non-pregnant co-workers received additional time to meet performance goals during their probation periods. Gooding failed to establish a prima facie case of pregnancy or gender discrimination. Even if she had, Walgreens offered a legitimate, nondiscriminatory business rationale for discharge, and Gooding failed to establish Walgreen's business rationale constituted a pretext for illegal discrimination on the basis of pregnancy or gender. The court granted Walgreen's motion for summary judgment.