March 25, 2015
In the case of Peggy Young v. United Parcel Service, the Court was asked to decide whether UPS had a duty to accommodate a pregnant worker by providing her with light duty work when it provided light duty work options to non-pregnant workers under other circumstances. Young, a driver for UPS, had been placed on an unpaid leave of absence after her doctor issued a restriction that she not lift more than 20 pounds for the first 20 weeks of her pregnancy. UPS denied Young's request to continue working light duty in accordance with her doctor's restrictions because it determined that it was considered an "off-the-job" condition pursuant to its neutral policies. UPS, however, had accommodated other non-pregnant drivers with temporary conditions, including injured drivers and drivers who temporarily lost their Department of Transportation licenses.
Under the Court's reasoning, Young would not have to show UPS was intentionally discriminating against pregnant workers, but, rather, a court would have to "consider the extent to which an employer's policy treats pregnant workers less favorably than it treats non-pregnant workers similar in their ability or inability to work." The 6-3 opinion, written by Justice Stephen Breyer, sends the Young case back to the Fourth Circuit of Appeals, which had previously ruled against Young. According to Justice Breyer, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals should have asked, "Why, when the employer accommodated so many, could it not accommodate pregnant women as well?"
Moral of the Story: Employers should carefully evaluate any accommodation requests provided by pregnant workers, as well as all applicable written policies, to ensure that accommodation determinations are consistent amongst all classes of workers.