Supreme Court Issues Pregnancy Discrimination Decision

March, 2015

Today, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in the Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc. case. The case involved a pregnancy discrimination claim made by Peggy Young when she was a UPS driver. While Young was pregnant and working for the company, a medical provider gave her a 20-lb lifting restriction. UPS refused to accommodate Young, citing a policy that provided light-duty work only for ADA accommodations, on-the-job injuries, or for drivers who temporarily lost their DOT certification.

The Court stated that employers must generally provide accommodations to pregnant employees who have a similar ability or inability to work as non-pregnant employees unless the employer has “legitimate, non-discriminatory, non-pretextual justifications” for treating pregnant employees differently. The Court went on to say that there is a "genuine dispute as to whether UPS provided more favorable treatment to at least some employees whose situation cannot reasonably be distinguished from Young's."

The result of this holding allows Young’s case to go back to a lower court to determine if she was discriminated against by UPS for its refusal to offer her light duty while she was pregnant.

Interestingly, this holding is different than the EEOC’s recent guidance on the PDA. The EEOC’s guidance required employers to offer pregnant employees accommodations solely based on whether any other employee with a similar ability or inability to work was offered an accommodation – regardless of whether the employer has a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for doing so. In disregarding the EEOC’s guidance, the Court found it to lack thoroughness of consideration, validity of reasoning, and consistency with past pronouncements.

Therefore, in light of this holding, employers should review their light-duty accommodation policies. If you are not offering light-duty to pregnant workers (or other protected groups), the employer should assess what its legitimate, non-discriminatory business reasons are for treating the employees differently (cost is not a sufficient justification). It should also assess whether those reasons are sufficiently strong and persuasive so they would not be seen as a mere pretext for treating pregnant employees differently.

For questions about how this case may affect your light-duty, fitness for duty, or accommodation policies, contact Cascade today.


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