Pregnancy in the Workplace – What “Young vs. UPS” Means for Employers

During our Lunch & Learn session at Schelsinger’s last week, we talked about the recent decision by the Supreme Court related of Young vs. UPS related to Pregnancy Discrimination. Smart employers know that it is in their best interest to accommodate valued employees, pregnant or not. And the US Senate seems to agree! Read on.

The case – Peggy Young was a UPS driver. When she became pregnant after a series of miscarriages, her doctor imposed a restriction on how much she could lift. UPS decided that it could not continue to allow her to work unless she could lift the amount listed in her job description, even though she rarely if ever was asked to lift things that heavy as an “air driver”. She requested a light-duty assignment, but was denied. UPS offered light duty to other categories of impaired employees.

Young filed suit, alleging that UPS violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) because it didn’t provide a female employee accommodations provided to others.

The Act – The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) provides that “women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes . . . as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work.”

The decision – The Supreme Court rejected Young’s argument that the PDA requires an employer to provide accommodations for pregnancy-related limitations even if it provides accommodations to workers with similar work limitations unrelated to pregnancy. However, the Court also rejected the view that pregnancy related accommodations can be treated with neutrality like those with off-the-job injuries.

What does it mean to employers? The decision is a reminder that accommodating employees who contribute to your organization in positive ways should be the first inclination. If employers offer benefits such as light duty to one group of employees, they need to consider providing those benefits to other employees who might need it. This is exactly what the EEOC guidelines recommend. Beyond the protections afforded to disabled employees under the ADA and protected leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), it’s often in the employers’ best interest to retain employees who have valuable experience and knowledge. Most accommodations are not onerous and include job restructuring, modified work schedules or work from home.

Of note –

On April 26, the day after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion in Young v. UPS, the Senate approved a bi-partisan amendment to provide funds to support efforts to prevent employment discrimination against pregnant workers. The sponsors of the amendment want to extend the requirements for reasonable accommodations under the ADA to pregnant workers. So more to come on this topic in the future!


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