In the mid-2000s, UPS had a couple of policies which could be considered extremely unfair to employees. On the one hand, if a UPS driver lost his or her driver’s license because of a DUI, the company would consider assigning an extra driver to drive him or her around to help him or her keep up the responsibilities of the job. At the same time, if a UPS driver got pregnant, and as part of the pregnancy was told by her doctor to avoid heavy lifting, the company may not make accommodation for her to let her continue delivering packages.
A former female UPS driver sued the company over its policies. While she was pregnant, she asked for a less demanding workload because her midwife told her she shouldn’t lift more than 20 pounds. UPS denied her request, stating that drivers needed to be able to lift at least 70 pounds. The company put the woman on leave without pay or insurance. The lawsuit made its way to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled against the woman. She then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the woman, ordering that the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals should reevaluate the woman’s lawsuit, taking into account the ways that other UPS employees were accommodated. For example, in addition to helping to meet the needs of its drivers with DUIs, UPS would make accommodations for employees with a history of accidents or high blood pressure (or other medical issues) that prevented them from driving. In its decision, the U.S. Supreme Court pointed out that it’s unfair for a company to treat pregnant employees more unforgivingly than DUI recipients.
Fortunately, since this case arose, UPS has changed its policy to offer light duty to pregnant employees. However, given that nearly two-thirds of women who have given birth in the last year were in the labor force, this issue is one that is certain to arise repeatedly.
This case represents further recognition by the federal government that pregnancy is a condition that demands reasonable accommodation because it is a medical condition that comes with a set of health risks. The U.S. Supreme Court stated that courts should consider the extent to which an employer’s policy treats pregnant workers less favorably than non-pregnant workers similar in their ability or inability to work.
In addition to this case, which provides further support to pregnant women in the workplace, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”) also provides protections to pregnant women. The PDA is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It provides that discrimination in the workplace on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions constitutes unlawful sex discrimination under Title VII. Women who are affected by pregnancy must be treated in the same manner as other employees or applicants. The PDA is just one law that helps pregnant women – the Family Medical Leave Act and state laws also help protect pregnant employees’ jobs.
If you have been discriminated against at work because of a pregnancy, you may choose to exercise your legal rights. At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that no employees should be discriminated against in the workplace because of pregnancy. If you have been discriminated against, you may be entitled to compensation for lost wages, lost benefits, emotional damages, and more.
Call Micha Star Liberty, Oakland pregnancy discrimination attorney, at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000 if you have been wrongfully discriminated against. She provides potential clients with a free consultation and you do not pay any fees unless she obtains a recovery for you. Call to learn more.