Pregnant Workers: the Supreme Court Is On Your Side

Image credit: WikipediaThis week’s GOOD court news: on Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in favor of Peggy Young, a former UPS driver who lost her job after she became pregnant.Young’s job technically required her to lift up to 70 pounds (though most of the time she was only picking up envelopes and small packages), so she obtained a doctor’s note restricting her from heavy lifting and asked the company for a temporary accommodation. UPS refused to give her a light-duty assignment, and she was forced to take unpaid leave, losing her health insurance in the process.Here’s the problem with what UPS did: they were giving accommodations to other workers unable to perform their regular duties, including drivers with DUI convictions, high blood pressure, and a history of accidents—just not pregnant women. Several lower courts didn’t see this as a violation of the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act and rejected Young’s discrimination claim. While Supreme Court didn’t officially rule that UPS violated the PDA, they were as confused as you or I about why a stroke qualifies someone for reassignment but a pregnancy doesn’t. They vacated the Fourth Circuit’s decision and sent the case back to the lower courts, saying: you need to explain yourselves better.So it’s not a resounding victory (yet), but Young will get another chance to make her case. On a national level, many are interpreting the outcome as the Supreme Court affirming the rights of pregnant workers—a surprising but welcome decision from the Roberts Court.