In a 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has handed a victory to Peggy Young and pregnant workers in Young v. United Parcel Service. Now it’s back to the Fourth Circuit to hash out the case.
“The Court has put employers on notice: pregnancy is not a reason to discriminate. The Court said that if you accommodate most non-pregnant workers who need it but not most pregnant workers who need it, you may be found guilty of violating the Pregnancy Discrimination Act,” said Marcia D. Greenberger, Co-President of the National Women’s Law Center in a statement in response to the ruling.
Young, whose boss at UPS told her to take unpaid leave when she asked for a break from heavy lifting on her job because of her pregnancy, sued UPS for discrimination. A district court ruled in favor of UPS on a summary judgment motion, and the Fourth Circuit affirmed, saying that UPS had created a “pregnancy-blind policy.”
Young had asked for “light duty” and pointed out that UPS gave “light duty” to other non-pregnant employees, including those injured on the job and employees with a disability as defined under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Court asks: “Why, when the employer accommodated so many, could it not accommodate pregnant women as well?”
That’s a question a lot of pregnant women have been asking lately. The EEOC has identified accommodating pregnancy-related limitations under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act as a national enforcement priority through 2016.
The Harvard Business Review published a pretty good analysis and treatment of what the law means for pregnant workers. Here is a key take away for what employers can make sure that they’re on the right side of the law by taking the following steps:
Ensure that light duty policies that apply to some categories of employees, such as those with on-the-job injuries, apply also to pregnant women.
Take a good look at other workplace policies to ensure compliance with both the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act’s mandates to provide accommodations to pregnant women. Employers in cities and states that have pregnancy accommodation laws will need to ensure compliance with those laws’ often more expansive requirements as well. Employers should review at least the following types of policies to ensure pregnant women are not disfavored: accommodation, leave, scheduling, and attendance. The easiest solution may be to simply amend existing policies and procedures to include accommodations on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions (including lactation).
Establish procedures for determining what accommodations are necessary and appropriate.
- Train supervisors about how to recognize and respond to pregnant employees’ need for accommodation.