Supreme Court Sends Case Seeking Job Protections For Pregnant Women Back To Lower Court

March 25, 2015  |  

UPDATE: The U.S. Supreme Court backed the rights of pregnant workers by reviving a lawsuit filed by UPS driver who quit her job when UPS refused to allow her to do less strenuous work which was recommended by her doctor.

The vote was 6-3 and the Justices sent the case back for a possible trial. “The court’s three women — Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — joined Justice Stephen Breyer in the majority, as did two Republican appointees, Justice Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts,” reports Bloomberg.

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PUBLISHED ORIGINALLY ON DEC. 2, 2014

Peggy Young was a driver for United Parcel Service, delivering envelopes and small packages early in the morning. That all changed when she got pregnant. When her doctor recommended that she avoid lifting heavy objects, UPS placed Young on unpaid leave. For the soon-to-be-mom this was devastating.

“I lost my health benefits,” Young said. “I lost my pension. And I lost my wages for seven months. And my disability benefits.”

Young thought this was not only unfair of UPS but also illegal. So she sued under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and the Supreme Court will hear her case on December 3rd.

This could be a big case for women, who make up 47 percent of the labor force and often work during and late into their pregnancies, reports The New York Times. In fact, according to the Census Bureau, an estimated 62 percent of women who had children in the previous year were in the labor force.

UPS isn’t even waiting for a decision from the Supreme Court. The company announced it plans to change its policy to offer light duty to pregnant women starting in January. “The new policy will strengthen UPS’s commitment to treating all workers fairly and supporting women in the workplace,” said Kara Ross, a spokeswoman for the company.

Still, UPS testified to the justices that it had no legal obligation to make such accommodations. And the lower courts in Young’s case agreed as a unanimous three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va., concluded the pregnancy law does not give pregnant women “a ‘most favored nation’ status.”

But Young said UPS could have easily made accommodations for her as the parcels she already were delivering were so light. “It’s envelopes or very small boxes,” she said. “They sat in a little basket in a seat next to me. Very rarely was it anything heavy, because it’s very expensive to send that way.” Or the company could have assigned Young less demanding duties.

UPS has business groups behind them and they have filed briefs supporting UPS, saying the pregnancy law did not apply to Young’s situation. Meanwhile Young has attracted a very diverse collection of supporters–from women’s rights organizations to anti-abortion groups.

And she has one major support: The Obama administration is behind Young, which is contrary to a previous position the White House has taken on pregnant workers.

“That is no longer the position of the United States,” the brief said, though it added that the United States Postal Service “continues to offer different treatment” to its pregnant workers.

 Young, 42, left UPS in 2009 and is now employed as a government contractor. Young, who has three children, said: “I don’t want my daughters to have to choose between having a baby and supporting a family.”

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