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Supreme Court Delivers Fairness to Pregnant Workers in UPS Case

Lenora M. Lapidus,
Former Director,
Women's Rights Project, ACLU
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March 25, 2015

The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued an important ruling for pregnant workers in the case of Peggy Young, a UPS delivery driver who was forced on to unpaid leave after she became pregnant and was advised by her doctor not to lift more than 20 pounds.

The lower courts in Young’s case ruled, as many other lower courts have, that it was perfectly fine for employers to push pregnant workers off the job and deny them light-duty accommodations, even when the employer gives light-duty to many other groups of workers.

In Peggy’s case, her employer provided accommodations to workers who needed them because they were injured on the job, as well as to workers who were covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act and workers who lost their commercial driving licenses.

The Supreme Court overturned that decision today’s in a 6-3 decision. The court ruled that employers cannot impose a “significant burden” on pregnant workers and that a pregnant worker can show that her employer’s practices are unjustified if the employer makes accommodations for a large percentage of non-pregnant workers, while denying the same kinds of accommodations to pregnant workers.

This ruling is a gain for women across the country. It furthers the purpose of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which was passed more than 35 years ago with the goal of putting women on an equal footing and ensuring that they can’t be fired or forced onto leave when they become pregnant.

The ACLU has long fought against employer practices of forcing pregnant workers off the job. We filed a brief in support of Peggy Young at the Supreme Court, and we represent other women in industries ranging from deliverydrivers to nursing home workers who are standing up for their right not to have to choose between their jobs and a healthy pregnancy.

We have supported states around the country that have passed additional protections to make sure that pregnant workers who need minor accommodations will receive them. Today’s decision sends a strong message to employers that they can’t leave pregnant workers out.

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