Follow Up: Supreme Court Hears UPS Pregnancy Discrimination Case
Wednesday, the Supreme Court finally issued an opinion on the pregnancy discrimination case brought against UPS, siding in favor of former employee Peggy Young.
At the end of last year, we blogged about Peggy Young, the former UPS driver who brought a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit against United Parcel Service nearly ten years ago. When Young became pregnant with her third child, her doctor advised her that she should not lift more than 20lbs. Because her job duties required her to sometimes lift up to 70lbs, Young requested light duty assignment, which was available for other employees who could not perform their normal job duties due to a work injury, disability, or suspension of their Dept. of Transportation certification. Her request was denied and placed on unpaid medical leave.
Young sued under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act which says, “women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions shall be treated the same … as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work.”
UPS initially won the case in court. This week, however, the Supreme Court overturned that decision by a 6-to-3 vote and allowed Young to have another chance to prove that her employer treated her differently from other nonpregnant employees with similar limitations. Young will now have to show that she was denied accommodation offered to similarly limited employees and the Fourth Circuit will make a final decision. We will stay tuned to find out what the trial court decides.
The Michigan Employment Law blog provides a good overview of the case, and some good advice for employers in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision: “My practical take for handling pregnant workers remains unchanged. Unless you can unequivocally demonstrate that you’ve never provided an accommodation to a disabled worker, you should be prepared to offer the same to your pregnant workers,” – Attorney John Hyman.
Many U.S. states, including Pennsylvania, have adopted their own specific laws protecting the rights of pregnant/nursing employees and prohibiting discrimination. Employers would do well to note the Supreme Court’s stance on this case and to revisit their own discrimination and accommodation policies. The hurdles that pregnant and nursing mothers face in the workplace remain a legitimate concern, but we hope that the Supreme Court’s stance in this case will propel a trend toward workplace equality.
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