Thursday, July 31, 2014

This Is Hobby Lobby

In July 2010, Felicia Allen was hired as a part-time cashier at a Hobby Lobby in Flowood, Mississippi. Soon after she began working, she discovered she was four months’ pregnant with her third child and, because she had only been employed a short time, she did not qualify for leave under the federal Family Medical Leave Act—something Hobby Lobby offers for maternity leave.

Felicia Allen went to her supervisor.
“I asked her would I lose my job due to me being four months and only having five months before I have my child. She told me ‘no.’ I felt like everything was OK. I had talked to my boss, and she let me know that everything would be OK. I would still have my job.”
But five months later, when the time came to take her leave of absence to have her child, that same supervisor told her she would be terminated for taking unpaid time off to have a baby, but she could reapply afterwards if she wanted her job back; side note: she tried to come back to work three weeks after her child was born but she was denied..
“I was like, I can’t get fired. She can’t terminate me because I have to go have my child. I started asking everybody on the job, ‘Can they do this?’ And even the assistant manager who had just got hired [said,] ‘No, that’s not right.’”
And it got worse. The so-called Christian craft store then tried to prevent Felicia Allen from accessing unemployment benefits and she was not allowed to sue the company for those benefits. See, Hobby Lobby, which likes to crow about operating its business based on “Christian” values—like firing a pregnant woman then refusing to rehire her—requires  its employees to sign a binding arbitration agreement saying they cannot sue the company to resolve employment disagreements, but instead go through arbitration. Companies like Hobby Lobby claim arbitration is better for both parties because it tends to take less time and money, and usually employers are required to cover employees’ legal fees.

But Hobby Lobby has a different arbitration policy from most corporations in that it allows for “Christian-influenced” arbitration. The mutual arbitration agreement Felicia Allen signed gives employees the option of an arbitrator through the nonprofit American Arbitration Association [AAA] or the Institute for Christian Conciliation [ICC], run by a nonprofit called Peacemaker Ministries which views arbitration as “a process for reconciling people and resolving disputes out of court in a biblical manner”:
Generally, Christians are not free to sue other Christians, at least not until they have exhausted the process that Jesus sets forth in Matthew 18:15-20 and 1 Corinthians 6:1-8. God instructs Christians to resolve their disputes within the church itself, with the assistance of other Christians if necessary.
Christians can’t sue Christians, but Christians can fire a pregnant woman and then tell her she cannot be rehired.

At the end of the arbitration — during which Allen says Hobby Lobby’s corporate office gave a false version of events, claiming she could have taken off personal leave but chose not to — she won her claim for unemployment benefits, but felt she had been wrongly discriminated based on the fact that she was pregnant. And so, in February 2012 she tried to sue, but her lawsuit was dropped because of that arbitration agreement she was forced to sign.

These days Felicia Allen works at Xerox while pursuing an associate’s degree in accounting and says she is through with Hobby Lobby.
“How can you be Christian and lie about something to hinder your employee or don’t want them to come back after they’ve had their baby? Or you’re taking up for your manager knowing that they had done the wrong thing. I feel like that’s not being Christian at all. That’s why I don’t even shop there anymore. I used to shop at that store all the time.”
Naturally, Hobby Lobby has no response because, well, liars and hypocrites. 


Helen Lashbrook said...

Sadly nowadays the majority of companies are run with the profit motif firmly ensconced as the major priority and that means zero hours contracts, using agency staff and other ways of ensuring that the company has no responsibility for its employees; companies like Amazon and this Hobby Lobby shower who sound like exceptional hypocrites

the dogs' mother said...

If money is the issue I bet they spent more on this instance than they would have if they had just stuck to the agreement.

mrs.missalaineus said...

i don't get it. they don't want people to not have kids by using birth control, but they don't want people to have kids by allowing them to have maternity leave. i suspect massa just wanted her to drop that baby, tie it up in a sling, and keep on pickin cotton....


anne marie in philly said...

asshats! thank bob HL is not in the philly area!

Biki Honko said...

GRRRRRRR! I refuse to shop there, and there is loads of them close to my Arizona house.

SEAN (The Jeep Guy) said...

@mrs.missalaineus - they don't want women coming back to work after having babies because they should stay home to raise and school them.

When I was Manager - any time I hired or promoted a woman who qualified for health benefits I had to advise them to pay for short term/long term disability benefits because health insurance wouldn't pay for time off from work. Yes, having a baby qualified as a disability. It didn't matter the age or the intent of the woman I had to have the conversation and STRONGLY advise the $1-$3 a month cost be paid. Can you imagine have a talk like that with an 18 year old? It was almost worse with the older women. (With the older women they already knew so it was easier but still really really awkward.)

Anonymous said...

There are plenty of laws in place to protect workers, and women having children, that being said ...she was not one of them.

A part-time employee does not have deductions for unemployment I surance, that's likely why she did not receive benefits and could not sue them for it, she never contributed so she can't withdraw, plain and simple.

And since she was not a full-time employee and only worked a limited time, she was not eligible for FMLA which the U.S. Government requires employers to provide, again, she was not eligible.

So what we have here is a simple case of ignorance and me-first, if she was entitled to any benefits she would've received them, if she was looking for free handouts, don't look to your employer look to your community services and local church.

The fact this story is just coming out now, three years after it happen suggests this has very little to do with the girl and her third child, and everything to do with an attempt to smear Hobby Lobby.