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Bob Ferguson


AG Ferguson files lawsuit against O’Reilly Auto Parts for discrimination and retaliation against pregnant employees

AG accuses national company of routinely and unlawfully denying pregnancy accommodations

SEATTLE — Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a civil rights lawsuit today accusing the corporate retailer O’Reilly Auto Parts of systemic discrimination and retaliation against the company’s pregnant employees.

The lawsuit filed in King County Superior Court against O’Reilly asserts that it is the company’s practice to unlawfully refuse pregnant workers reasonable workplace accommodations, such as the ability to sit or rest, limit how much they lift or handle hazardous materials, allow flexibility for Map of O'Reilly locations in Washingtonrestroom breaks, and pump breastmilk for their newborn babies after returning to work postpartum.

Moreover, after unlawfully rejecting these accommodations, O’Reilly managers routinely engaged in retaliation against the women who sought them — demoting them, threatening termination and forcing them to take unpaid leave or quit altogether.

At least 22 women suffered physically, emotionally and financially as a direct result of O’Reilly’s unlawful actions. The Attorney General’s Office suspects the number is much greater, with hundreds of Washington workers employed by O’Reilly at 169 stores across 27 counties.

If you have experienced pregnancy discrimination at a Washington O’Reilly, we want to hear from you. Contact our Civil Rights Division by emailing Oreillylawsuit@atg.wa.gov or by calling 833-660-4877 and selecting Option 4. Current and former employees may also submit a complaint using an online form.

 “Pregnant Washingtonians should not have to choose between healthy, safe pregnancies and their livelihoods,” Ferguson said. “My office will hold O’Reilly and any other employer accountable when they violate the law and endanger the health of their employees and their babies.”

“Having a healthy and safe pregnancy is critical for both the baby and mother, and it’s reasonable to expect employers to accommodate that,” said Sen. Karen Keiser, who sponsored the Healthy Starts Act that enshrined these pregnancy accommodations into state law. “Women shouldn’t have to choose between being able to work and provide for their families, and having a healthy pregnancy. While nearly all employers follow the law and do right by their pregnant workers, in the rare cases where they don’t, we need to act, and I want to thank Attorney General Ferguson for taking this important enforcement action.”

Details of AGO investigation

The Attorney General’s Office opened an investigation into O’Reilly after receiving two separate complaints from pregnant employees within months of each other. Limited records provided by the Missouri-based retailer reveal at least 134 requests for pregnancy accommodations were made in Washington between January 2019 and February 2023. The company has since been unresponsive and uncooperative, leading Ferguson to file the lawsuit.

Multiple employees told Civil Rights Division investigators that their requests for pregnancy-related leave were denied, including one woman who said O’Reilly’s leave of absence department repeatedly rejected the accommodation because her due date was an “estimate” and not definitive.

Many employees told investigators that O’Reilly managers required them to lift more than the weight limit recommended as safe by their doctors. Some of them said that did not change even after they complained to management of dizziness, significant cramping or other physical symptoms while performing the work.

Several women said they were subject to verbal harassment for taking breaks to sit or use the restroom. At least two women said managers hid the stools they used during breaks to rest, including one who was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and blood clots in her legs. One of them said the assistant manager admitted to the retaliatory action.

When employees expressed concerns to management about these and other actions, managers were routinely dismissive. Several employees told investigators that they never believed their accommodations were taken seriously. In fact, one woman says a manager even told her so, List of discriminatory practicesremarking that he thought she would be leaving in a few months so it “didn’t matter.”   

Several of the women say that after they gave birth their managers coerced them into returning to work before the end of their scheduled maternity leave, in some cases before being cleared by their medical providers. Others described being denied breaks to pump breastmilk, resulting in the inability to breastfeed their babies.

Many of the women who talked to investigators said their managers forced them out of their jobs immediately following their requests for pregnancy accommodations. 

This conduct was also consistent across multiple stores. For example, one woman was pregnant four times during nearly a decade of employment in various positions at several different stores. Each time, she was denied accommodations — once having to transfer to a location much farther from her home because the store she was working at denied her request for pregnancy-related leave.

Ferguson’s lawsuit asserts these unlawful actions by O’Reilly amount to multiple violations of both the state’s Healthy Starts Act and the Washington Law Against Discrimination. The suit also accuses O’Reilly of violating the state’s Consumer Protection Act, for deceiving Washington workers and potential job applicants. The company publicly touts a commitment to safety and wellness as well as employment practices that are free from discrimination — all of which is inconsistent with the experiences of the many women who talked to the Attorney General’s Office as part of its investigation.

Ferguson’s lawsuit seeks to obtain damages and restitution for people who were harmed. It also seeks civil penalties, including enhanced penalties for violations that targeted or impacted workers on the basis of sex discrimination. Those penalties are $7,500 for each violation and enhanced penalties of $5,000 per violation, respectively.

The suit also seeks to stop O’Reilly’s unlawful conduct.

Assistant Attorneys General Teri Healy and Alyssa P. Au, Investigator Rebecca Pawul, and Paralegal Tiffany Jennings lead the case for the Attorney General’s Office.

Healthy Starts Act

The Healthy Starts Act went into effect in July 2017, after Senate Bill 5835 passed both the state House and Senate unanimously. The law ensures that pregnant employees have the right to reasonable accommodations in the workplace.

Under the law, employers must provide certain accommodations for pregnant employees, including:

  • Providing more frequent, longer or flexible restroom breaks;
  • Changing a no-food-or-drink policy;
  • Allowing more frequent sitting; and
  • Limiting lifting to 17 pounds or less.

In addition to these mandatory accommodations, employees can ask for other accommodations they may need, such as job or schedule restructuring, modifications to an employee’s equipment or work station, transfers to less dangerous or physical work, scheduling flexibility for prenatal visits, extra break time to express breast milk or other reasonable accommodations on a case-by-case basis.

The Healthy Starts Act prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who request a pregnancy accommodation or otherwise exercise their rights under the law. It allows employees or the Attorney General to file a lawsuit based on a denial of a reasonable accommodation or retaliation.

In addition, the Washington Law Against Discrimination prohibits discrimination against employees based on sex, including pregnancy status. It also prohibits firing employees or reducing their work schedules because they are pregnant.

Past AGO enforcement

This is not the first time Ferguson has challenged O’Reilly’s discriminatory workplace practices. In 2014, Ferguson’s office investigated O’Reilly for not providing health care benefits to same-sex spouses that the company was providing to other married couples.

After O’Reilly failed to provide a complete response to a Civil Investigative Demand and refused to produce any documents related to its decision not to provide the benefits, Ferguson filed a petition in King County Superior Court to force the company to comply.

The action resulted in O’Reilly changing its health care policy nationwide to provide benefits to same-sex couples.

Other pregnancy accommodation cases brought by the Attorney General include:

  • State of Washington v. Colmar: In Ferguson’s first case brought to trial under the Healthy Starts Act, a Tacoma judge ordered more than $41,000 in penalties and mandatory training for a FedEx contractor and its owner for firing an employee immediately after she requested a pregnancy accommodation.
  • State of Washington v. Matheson Flight Extenders: Ferguson’s civil rights lawsuit against the California-based air cargo handler included claims that the company failed to accommodate a pregnant employee who requested modified duty. The suit resulted in a $168,500 judgment to compensate harmed employees. 


Washington’s Attorney General serves the people and the state of Washington. As the state’s largest law firm, the Attorney General’s Office provides legal representation to every state agency, board, and commission in Washington. Additionally, the Office serves the people directly by enforcing consumer protection, civil rights, and environmental protection laws. The Office also prosecutes elder abuse, Medicaid fraud, and handles sexually violent predator cases in 38 of Washington’s 39 counties. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.


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Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; Brionna.aho@atg.wa.gov

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