Hobby Lobby Allegedly Fired Employee Due to Pregnancy


By Sofia Resnick

When a very pregnant Felicia Allen applied for medical leave from her job at Hobby Lobby three years ago, one might think that the company best known for denying its employees insurance coverage of certain contraceptives—on the false grounds that they cause abortions—would show equal concern for helping one of its employees when she learned she was pregnant.

Instead, Allen says the self-professed evangelical Christian arts-and-crafts chain fired her and then tried to prevent her from accessing unemployment benefits.

“They didn’t even want me to come back after having my baby, to provide for it,” she says.

Her allegations—as well as those brought by other former Hobby Lobby employees—call into question the company’s public claims when it comes to protecting life and operating its business with Christian values. Additionally, they highlight a practice by which Hobby Lobby prevents its employees from seeking justice through the courts.

In a phone interview with RH Reality Check, Allen, now 32, said she was stunned when her supervisor at the Hobby Lobby store in Flowood, Mississippi, told her she would be terminated for taking unpaid time off to have her baby.

“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,’” Allen said. “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.”Allen had been hired as a part-time cashier in late July 2010. Shortly after starting the job, she learned she was four months’ pregnant with her third child. Because she had not been working for very long, Allen did not qualify for leave under the federal Family Medical Leave Act, which is what she said the Oklahoma City-based chain offers for maternity leave. Nervous, Allen went to her supervisor.

But five months later, when the time came to take her leave of absence, Allen says her supervisor told her she would be terminated but could reapply later on. She says she tried to come back to work three weeks after her child was born, to no avail.

“I was like, I can’t get fired,” Allen recalls. “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.’”

Hobby Lobby did not respond to multiple requests to tell its side of the story or to answer questions about its maternity leave and other company policies.

When Allen applied for unemployment benefits, she says Hobby Lobby’s corporate office gave the unemployment agency a false version of events, claiming she could have taken off personal leave but chose not to. In the end, Allen says she won her claim for unemployment benefits, but she felt she had been wrongly discriminated based on the fact that she was pregnant. In February 2012 she sued Hobby Lobby, but her lawsuit was swiftly dropped because, like most—if not all—Hobby Lobby employees, Allen had signed away her rights to sue the company.

Though the multibillion-dollar, nearly 600-store chain took its legal claim against the federal government all the way to the Supreme Court when it didn’t want to honor the health insurance requirements of the Affordable Care Act, the company forbids its employees from seeking justice in the court of law.

Allen had signed a binding arbitration agreement upon taking the job, though she says she doesn’t remember doing so. The agreement, which all Hobby Lobby employees are required to sign, forces employees to resolve legal disputes outside of court through a process known as arbitration.

Arbitration has many benefits: It is usually vastly cheaper than litigation, and often allows parties to stave off potential reputational damage by settling disputes in private.


  1. In Australia, based on the text in this scenario, and relying on no other information, Hobby Lobby would have been prosecuted for Wrongful Dismissal, and would have been convicted, fined and required to compensate the victim. Also, it is the start of a slippery legal down slope when people are required to waive their legal rights. There are inequalities of power in this relationship, which is why we have laws, to protect the vulnerable from the predator. It cannot be done where I live. And it should be outlawed in America.

    Reminds me of the Catholic Church agreeing to non admission of guilt settlements with victims of clergy sex abuse, on the condition of total silence, and no further legal action.

    Both are quite distasteful examples of good people being hurt by religion.

      • David, considering recent and pending actions with respect to workplace relations by the present Australian government, your statement may be accurate now, but maybe not for much longer.

        Sadly that may be true. One can only hope the Heinz 57 varieties Senate may block some of the extreme ideological rubbish, or Abbott is stupid enough to call a double disillusion and we can get back to a still bad, but slightly better social conscience govt.

        Which ever way, I am always astounded at what you hear coming out of America. Hobby Lobby. Praying in restaurants. 50% think the earth is 8,000 years old. Universal health care is communism. It’s like America has become a plot from the twilight zone. The rest of the world has moved its civilization forward and America is still stuck back with Leave it to Beaver.

  2. How can you sign away your rights? I always understood that to be an impossibility – a lawyer once said to me, accompanied by a withering look, “that’s why they’re called rights.” From my trade union days, I can understand that a court might take a dim view, if a fair conciliation/arbitration facility was available and not used, before going to court.

    • Walmart employs the same practice. During orientation, they hand you a stack of papers to sign and initial. In that mix of papers is a waiver of your right to legal action. The only reason Walmart gets sued is because enough people join in on the suit (class-action) for it not to be thrown out like in this woman’s case. You put your signature on a paper, it becomes a binding legal document.

      • You put your signature on a paper, it becomes a binding legal document.

        Only in America. In the rest of the civilized world, your rights under the constitution cannot be waived by signing a piece of paper. A corporate memo does not overturn a constitution. Sometimes America’s lack of social conscience appalls me. If a politician doesn’t have a social conscience, then don’t vote for them. If you don’t vote for them, Felicia Allen would still be employed and a happy mother.

        • I totally agree with you! Sometimes I believe that the United States is very backwards in its thinking; especially Congress. We live in the 21st century; not the Dark Ages. I women’s body is her own and the government has no place being in her uterus or any employer!!!! I am currently covered with medical insurance because of the Affordable Care Act; what a peace of mind that is. Yet, we have people in government positions that are still talking about getting rid of it!!! Hello…what rock have they been asleep under? A business that denies a woman contraception with her insurance, yet lets a man have Viagra…..is a hard pill to swallow!! I’m sure this gal has moved on to a better employer! I have enjoyed reading your comments.

  3. How can you sign away your rights? I always understood that to be an impossibility – a lawyer once said to me, accompanied by a withering look, “that’s why they’re called rights.”

    Sadly Eejit, this is America, where the free market rules. The theory of an economic free market is based on all players in the market having the equal power to negotiate prices for services.

    You know, like Felicia Allen above (no relation) having equal power with the Hobby Lobby Corporation. This is an example of why the free market must be regulated to provide a legal balance of power, and not have a free for all where the free market only operates for the benefit of the rich or the corporation.

    It’s also one of the defects in American society, “The Land of the Free” (As long as you are rich)

  4. Maybe I’ve been wrong about Hobby Lobby this entire time. Maybe they’re not just militant evangelicals comfortable in using their corporate largess to subvert the constitutional rights of their employees to their own religious whims. Maybe their just dicks too.

  5. Before long Hobby Lobby might need a strategic name change, hmmm…

    Value Vacuum…

    Leisure Vomitorium…

    perhaps combine the two,…Value Vomitorium.

    Irony is beyond their horizon ; it would be nice to work in Veracity somewhere.

  6. I’m bewildered by the fact that even one customer enters their door! This is one shop I’d avoid like the plague if I were in a position to do so. They don’t want their employes to have the means to prevent pregnancy, but if they do fall pregnant they’re not looked after. They should recruit their staff from the dwindling supply of nuns!

  7. David R Allen.Add to that the brutality in the prison service the excessive long sentences,and jailing under 18 year old’s to life with out parole .The police are the same and seem to have free hand to do whatever they like without accountability.Recently witnessed the brutal beating a homeless mentally disturbed 51 year old women walking the wrong way down a busy highway. A cop jumped her from behind pinned her the ground and hit her with his fist as hard as he could 12-15 times.Then handcuffed and arrested her.This kind of thing is not uncommon.Then you have the religious right who can claim their rights over the law.The gun laws are ridiculous and now have people walking around with assault rifles over their shoulders in public places claiming it is their right to do so.They are not breaking the law so don’t get arrested.This gives you a better picture of the US.

    • It is definitely messed up!! I had a difficult time watching that video of those police beating that gal up. What a bunch of bullies some of the police forces have become. My take on the religious right….join a convent or monastery, but I doubt they would accept them….too loud and obnoxious!!

  8. The gun laws are ridiculous and now have people walking around with assault rifles over their shoulders in public places claiming it is their right to do so.They are not breaking the law so don’t get arrested.This gives you a better picture of the US.

    America, on the way to becoming just another failed state.

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