On March 25, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of a former UPS employee who was faced with the choice to either continue working her labor-intensive job during pregnancy or take unpaid leave.
The employee, Peggy Young, worked as a part-time driver for UPS. When she became pregnant in 2006, her doctor advised that she should not lift more than 20 pounds. UPS, however, required drivers like Young to be able to lift up to 70 pounds. When Young presented UPS with her doctor’s note, she was told that she could not work while under a lifting restriction.
Young consequently stayed home without pay during most of the time she was pregnant and eventually lost her employee medical coverage. Young sued UPS, alleging that the company had violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act’s (PDA) second clause because it had a light-duty policy for other types of workers, but not for pregnant workers.
In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that Young should be given the opportunity to prove that UPS violated the PDA by not giving her the same light-duty accommodation that was given to other UPS employees who were considered injured or disabled. The Supreme Court’s decision establishes a legal framework for this type of pregnancy discrimination case. Due to this ruling, it may be easier for employees to succeed on claims that their employers violated the PDA by failing to accommodate them.
To help limit liability under the PDA, employers should review their employment practices and policies regarding accommodations to make sure pregnant workers are treated the same as other workers with similar restrictions.