Blog of Rights

A Pregnant Worker’s Day in Court

By Ariela Migdal, ACLU Women's Rights Project at 10:45am

A federal appeals court heard arguments in the case of Peggy Young v. UPSPeggy Young was a package delivery driver for UPS when she became pregnant and asked UPS for a light duty assignment, so that she could continue to work while pregnant, even though her doctor had recommended she not lift more than 20 pounds.

A federal appeals court yesterday heard arguments in the case of Peggy Young v. UPS. Peggy Young was a package delivery driver for UPS when she became pregnant and asked UPS for a light duty assignment, so that she could continue to work while pregnant, even though her doctor had recommended she not lift more than 20 pounds. Although UPS admits it routinely grants alternative work assignments, including light duty, to other workers – including workers who are injured on the job, workers eligible for accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and workers who lose their driver’s license - it refuses to grant those same minor adjustments to pregnant workers like Young.

UPS’s policy forces pregnant workers off the job and leaves them without health benefits when they give birth. This is exactly the result that Congress intended to avoid when it enacted the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978, a point the ACLU and ACLU of Maryland emphasized in a friend-of-the-court brief we filed on behalf of more than 10 women’s rights groups. Before the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was enacted, companies routinely excluded pregnant workers from benefits that they gave to other employees, including health insurance coverage. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act fixed this problem by mandating that when employers give a benefit to other workers who are similar to a pregnant worker in their ability or inability to work, employers must give that same benefit to the pregnant worker.

The problem is that employers, and some courts, including the district court in this case, have subverted the law by letting employers come up with “pregnancy blind” reasons for excluding pregnant workers. UPS argues that it has nothing against pregnant workers; it’s just that they don’t fit into any of its “neutral” categories of people entitled to accommodations.

In court yesterday, Young’s lawyer emphasized to the judges that UPS’s policy violates both the letter and the spirit of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. UPS offers accommodations to just about everyone under the sun who needs one, while pregnant workers like Peggy Young get left out. It’s time to end the exclusion of pregnant workers, once and for all.

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