Tag: Workers Rights

UPS: “We’re Here To Help” . . . Unless You’re Pregnant

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.

FMLA, Retaliation, and Lawsuits

Ronald Rice was excited to share the news of his wife’s pregnancy with his co-workers and employer in January 2012. Within days of his announcement, however, his work relationship turned sour.

Suddenly, Rice was assigned a multitude of extra duties that were outside his job description. He endured the extra workload for six months until his wife’s pregnancy took a difficult turn. In order to take care of his wife who now had more doctor’s appointments to attend and had severe morning sickness, Rice requested to take five days of vacation time. Two of those days were denied, so Rice put in an FMLA request for those days, three days after his vacation request. The employer swiftly terminated Rice.

Rice then sued the company for interfering with his FMLA rights. The district court decided that there was enough evidence to conclude that the employer had terminated Rice due to his association with his pregnant wife and discriminated against him for trying to take an FMLA leave. The employer’s defense hinged on the testimony of managers who claimed the executor of the termination was not aware of Rice’s request. The court, however, found that there was no plan to terminate Rice previous to his FMLA request, and therefore concluded that the sole reason for termination was borne out of retaliation.

Source: Rice v. Kellermeyer Co. (Ohio 2014)