The U.S. Supreme Court will use a case involving United Parcel Service Inc. to decide whether pregnant employees can be denied accommodations such as light duty when other workers with disabilities receive them.
The court said it will hear an appeal by a UPS driver who says the company’s refusal to give her a temporary light-duty assignment violated the U.S. Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
Peggy Young, who worked at a UPS facility in Landover, Maryland, became pregnant in 2006 and was told by her doctor not to lift objects weighing more than 20 pounds for the first half of her pregnancy and more than 10 pounds thereafter.
She said UPS told her the company’s union contract made a light-duty assignment available only to workers with job-related injuries, those considered permanently disabled under the Americans With Disabilities Act, and those who lost their federal driver’s certification. Employees with non-job-related injuries weren’t eligible.
Young went on an unpaid leave of absence and returned to work after her baby was born. She sued UPS, claiming it violated the 1978 pregnancy-discrimination law.
A federal judge and a Richmond, Virginia-based appeals court ruled against her, saying UPS’s policy treated pregnant and non-pregnant workers alike.
In appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court, Young argued that the pregnancy-discrimination law requires her to be given an accommodation comparable to those received by others with similar “ability or inability to work,” regardless of how the person became disabled.
The Obama administration, in a court brief, agreed that the 4th Circuit erred. Still, government lawyers recommended the high court deny review because a separate federal law, the Americans With Disabilities Act, was amended in 2008 to require accommodations for employees with temporary disabilities.
UPS said in court papers that other federal appeals courts agreed with the 4th Circuit that the company’s policy was lawful because it used other criteria besides pregnancy to determine which employees can be assigned to light duty.
The case is Young v. United Parcel Service, 12-1226.