Pregnancy discrimination case reaches Supreme Court

Workers who are pregnant are protected from discriminatory practices based on their pregnancy by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA).

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) agreed to hear a case questioning the protections of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act earlier this year. SCOTUS noted that this question is exceptionally important as discrimination of "pregnant women and caregivers potentially affects every family in the United States."

The case: Background, issues and the law

The case, Young v. United Parcel Service, involves a woman who became pregnant and brought a note to her supervisor from her midwife stating she should not lift over twenty pounds during her pregnancy. Her job description requires the ability to lift packages that can weigh up to 70 pounds. The manager stated that the company had offered light duty to those with "on-the-job injuries, those accommodated under the ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] and those who had lost [Department of Transportation] certification, but not for pregnancy." When the employee spoke with the division manager, she was reportedly told that she was "'too much of a liability' while pregnant and that she 'could not come back into the [facility in which she worked] until [she] was no longer pregnant.'" The woman chose to continue her pregnancy, which led to an extended, unpaid leave of absence and resulted in loss of medical coverage.

The employee filed suit against the employer, stating UPS was in violation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) states 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." SCOTUS took the fact that UPS offered three categories of workers light-duty options based on various conditions into consideration when making its opinion, ultimately ruling in favor of the employee.

The case: Impact and relevance

The holding allows the employee to make her case in court, a victory for the worker as previous courts threw the case out. SCOTUS notes these courts should take into consideration why, "when the employer accommodated so many, could it not accommodate pregnant women as well?" The SCOTUS decision also provides clarification of the application of PDA.

The case is already fueling change. A recent article in the Huffington Post notes that prior to this ruling, UPS adjusted its policies for pregnant workers. The company began allowing light-duty options as of January 1, 2015.

The case: Importance of legal counsel

This case is just one example of how workers can face discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth or other related conditions. Those who feel they are the victims of this form of discrimination should know that remedies are available. They can include reinstatement to the previous or similar position, back pay and lost wages. Contact an experienced pregnancy discrimination in the workplace lawyer to discuss the details of your case and better ensure your rights are protected.