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Pregnant Macy's Cashier Fired After Asking to Sit Down on Job, Claim Says

By Maya Rajamani | March 30, 2016 10:05am
 A former Macy's employee claims the department store failed to provide accommodations for medical issues related to a high-risk pregnancy, then fired her after she missed several days of work.
A former Macy's employee claims the department store failed to provide accommodations for medical issues related to a high-risk pregnancy, then fired her after she missed several days of work.
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Getty Images/Spencer Platt

MIDTOWN SOUTH — A single mother with a baby on the way was fired from her job at Macy’s Herald Square after the department store failed to provide accommodations like a stool for her to sit on as she dealt with a high-risk pregnancy, forcing her to miss work, new charges reveal. 

Harlem resident Anabelle Mayi, 28, had been working at Macy’s flagship store on West 34th Street since September 2013, moving from seasonal and part-time work to a full-time job as saleswoman and cashier at the store in August 2014, according to a filing with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

After a physician diagnosed Mayi with a high-risk pregnancy last April, she asked her supervisor if it would be possible for her to sit on a chair or stool for short periods of time while she worked at the store’s cosmetics and fragrance counter, the filing said.

Her supervisor referred her to a human-resources representative, who told her it “would not be possible” but said a transfer to an office job could be, according to Manhattan Legal Services, which is representing Mayi.

After her meeting with the HR representative, however, “no further discussion took place, and no such accommodation was provided,” a statement from the legal firm said.

By then, Mayi had started to experience “blood spotting, back pain, nausea and dizziness” related to her pregnancy, and the smell of perfume at the counter began making her sick, the former employee claimed in the EEOC complaint.

Mayi was able to get her physician to fill out Family and Medical Leave Act paperwork — which the HR representative had provided to her at their initial meeting — stating she could not lift any heavy items and that she needed to be able to sit down for 15 minutes every hour and take “frequent rest breaks,” the filing said.

However, on May 16, Macy’s told Mayi her paperwork was incomplete and didn’t provide her with any of the accommodations her physician had requested, the filing said.

Mayi had a “difficult time” getting her physician to fill out the additional paperwork, so she again contacted Macy’s HR representatives, who “assured [her] several times that it was not a problem” and simply told her to fax the completed papers in when she received them, the filing continued.

But after calling out sick several days due to pregnancy-related symptoms, Macy’s blocked Mayi’s employee access on May 27, the filing stated.

In July, Mayi received a letter from Macy’s stating she was officially terminated as of July 7 because she had not worked “at least once in the last fourteen days,” the charge said.

“If Macy’s had given me an accommodation or even just engaged in a proper interactive process with me, I would have been able to continue to work,” Mayi said in a statement attached to the filing.

Manhattan Legal Services attorney Julia Rosner claimed that Macy’s violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to provide her with the accommodations.

“If Macy’s had complied with the law, [Mayi would] be working there today,” Rosner told DNAinfo.

“Even if [Macy’s] assertion was correct that the original FMLA paperwork wasn’t correct, it still put them on notice that she needed accommodation,” she added.

Mayi was not available for comment, but Rosner said the former employee has struggled to support her kindergarten-aged son, as well as the baby she gave birth to in December after losing her job.

“It really harmed her in terms of her earning capacity,” the attorney said.

Mayi is seeking reinstatement and back pay for the dates she could have worked when she called out, as well pay for the months she could have worked after being terminated, Rosner said.

A spokesman for Macy's on Wednesday said the company "is an equal opportunity employer."

"...[G]iven that this is a personnel matter, we are not able to comment on this case," he said.

An EEOC spokeswoman on Wednesday said that the commission is "prohibited by law from confirming or denying the existence of discrimination charge filings, investigations, or administrative resolutions."

In a statement released by Manhattan Legal Services, Mayi said she “loved [her] job at Macy’s.”

“But given the choice of keeping my baby or my job, I had to keep my baby — there really was no choice for me,” she said.