UPS driver Peggy Young got pregnant, and as her pregnancy advanced her doctor advised she not lift the 70lb packages UPS sometimes required her to deliver. Although UPS allowed some disabled employees to get help lifting heavy packages or have temporary “light-duty” assignments, UPS refused to do the same for Ms. Young. UPS’ response was, essentially, “sorry, we’re not required to help pregnant people.”
UPS took the position that while it was required to accommodate disabled workers and workers injured on the job by certain federal and state laws, there was no law specifically requiring it to offer accommodations to pregnant employees, so Ms. Young was out of luck. As a result, Ms. Young couldn’t work for months and lost thousands of dollars in pay.
Ms. Young disagreed, and sued UPS claiming that its refusal to allow her the same kind of assistance or temporary duty was a kind of discrimination against her because she was pregnant. After many travails and proceeding through one court after another, Ms. Young’s case finally ended up at the last stop on the line: The United States Supreme Court.
Although the U.S. Supreme Court has not lately been known for favoring employees or expanding individuals legal rights, even the conservative Court agreed with Ms. Young in part. The final decision will make Ms. Young go back through the lower courts to see if she can prove her individual case, but the basic rule set by the Supreme Court is clear: if a company accommodates some temporary disabilities, it has to accommodate pregnancy, too. In short, the company does not get to pick and choose among those legally protected.
The decision is great news for employees who become pregnant, and in particular those who may worry about the effect of physically difficult jobs and job duties.