In early December, 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) heard an extremely important case for pregnant workers. The question is whether pregnant women are entitled to reasonable accommodations in the workplace. Peggy Young, the woman who started the suit, argues that they are, while her former employer, UPS, argues that they should not have to provide such accommodations. The result of the case will affect every pregnant worker and those workers’ families and co-workers from here on, so the stakes are quite high.
(Photo Credit: Matt H. Wade/Wikimedia Commons)
What Happened to Peggy Young?
Young drove a UPS delivery truck for four years. She then became pregnant. UPS told her to see the company nurse, and the nurse asked for a note from Young’s doctor. Young explained her job duties to her doctor, and the doctor wrote a note recommending that Young not lift more than 20 pounds.
Young says that upon receiving the note, the nurse told her, “Well, we don’t give alternative work or light duty to off-work incidents.”
She then told the nurse she could do her regular job, but the company would not allow her to do so. Instead, she lost her job and her UPS-provided health insurance for nine months. In response, Young filed a lawsuit requesting back pay and damages under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The court dismissed her case without trial. The case worked its way through the appellate courts and is now finally in front of SCOTUS.
What SCOTUS Is Deciding
The Court will be deciding whether, and in what circumstances, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act requires an employer that provides work accommodations to non-pregnant employees with work limitations to provide work accommodations to pregnant employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work. In other words, can a company provide some employees with work accommodations but refuse to provide pregnant women with such accommodations?
USA Today reports that UPS defended its actions in court by arguing that Young’s pregnancy did not meet any of the company’s three criteria for an accommodation:
1. Young did not suffer an on-the-job injury.
2. She did not have a disability recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
3. She did not suffer a loss of federal certification to drive.
The company argues that people with other conditions that do not fall into those categories would have been treated the same as Young, so there was no discrimination. Young contends, however, that she is no different from drivers who were given accommodations to recover after a stroke or to treat hypertension, or drivers who temporarily lost their driver’s licenses. Just as each of those drivers’ conditions were temporary, so was hers, so treating her differently due to the nature of her condition violated the law.
Now that SCOTUS has heard arguments in the case, it could release an opinion at any time. However, a contentious issue like this one usually requires some time before an opinion is issued. The Court ultimately has until its term ends in June to issue an opinion.
Tell Us What You Think
Do you know a woman whose boss would not provide her with reasonable accommodations during her pregnancy? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.