What employers need to know about pregnancy discrimination

Thoran Towler

Thoran Towler

On March 25, 2015, the United States Supreme Court delivered its opinion on a case relating to treatment of pregnant workers that is of interest to businesses. In Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc., the court evaluated the requirements for bringing a disparate (discrimination) treatment claim under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

The plaintiff, Peggy Young, asked the court to determine how the latter provision applied in the context of an employer’s policy that accommodates many, but not all, workers with non-pregnancy related disabilities. She was employed by United Parcel Service, Inc., which generally required employees to be able to lift 70 pounds.

In 2006, after Young had suffered several miscarriages, she became pregnant. Her doctor had restricted lifting to 20 pounds. Since her condition did not meet qualifications for “light duty,” Young was not accommodated by UPS. However, light duty was available for on-the-job injuries, employees with Americans with Disabilities Act-qualified conditions and those who lost Department of Transportation certification. The Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling held that an employee could make a disparate treatment claim through indirect evidence.

This ruling means that when Young was denied her request to accommodate her lifting restriction, the company, in turn, would be required to show that the reasoning for non-accommodation was legitimate.

Thus, if the employer grants an accommodation to other employees with similar limitations, the company must grant pregnant employees the same accommodation.

It should be noted that this incident happened before the enactment of the 2008 pregnancy amendments to the ADA, which have been expanded in such a way that Ms. Young could have applied for protection under the ADA.

Thoran Towler practices labor and employment law at Allison MacKenzie Law Firm in Carson City. Prior to joining Allison MacKenzie, he served as the State of Nevada Labor Commissioner.


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