Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case addressing the rights of pregnant women in the workplace. Peggy Young, a UPS driver, originally filed a lawsuit under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act complaining that UPS discriminated against her after she became pregnant by refusing to accommodate her doctor-recommended lifting restrictions, forcing her to take unpaid leave and lose medical coverage.
Rather than the typical discrimination case in which the employee complains she was disparately treated or that an employment practice disparately impacts a group to which she belongs, Young argues that UPS is liable for discrimination because it failed to extend her a special accommodation beyond the company’s neutral policies. She contends, too, that no non-pregnant employee requesting light-duty work to accommodate an injury/disability had ever been denied.
In response, UPS denied any discrimination, arguing that it provided across-the-board rules accommodating workers injured on the job, but not those who faced lifting restrictions because of off-the-job medical conditions. In refusing Ms. Young’s request, it relied on pregnancy-neutral policies. As the company articulated to the Court in oral argument, the general company policy is “a far cry from a policy that singles out pregnant women.”
The district court and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals have already sided with UPS in the case. Now, the Supreme Court must decide whether, and to what extent, employers must specifically accommodate pregnancy, and whether facially neutral employment policies that fail to do so constitute unlawful discrimination.
Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc. (Case No. 12-1226)