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Supreme Court will consider pregnancy discrimination case

Federal law protects female workers from being wrongfully terminated, demoted or given lower pay because they are pregnant. These forms of pregnancy discrimination are fairly obvious and tend to be relatively easy to prove under a number of circumstances. However, pregnancy discrimination can also be subtle and harder to detect if workers are not aware of their rights.

Over the past several weeks, we have been discussing the ways in which subtle forms of discrimination continue to permeate the American workplace. The United States Supreme Court will soon consider arguments in a pregnancy discrimination case involving a female employee of the United Parcel Service. The outcome of this case will almost certainly influence the ways that courts will treat other instances of relatively subtle pregnancy discrimination that occur in the future.

This autumn, the Court will hear the story of Peggy Young. This UPS worker requested lighter duty work during her pregnancy, as lifting heavy parcels for several hours a day was no longer a healthy option for her or her fetus. Rather than granting her lighter duty work or other reasonable accommodations as required by law, UPS insisted that she take unpaid leave.

The Court will hopefully clarify that pregnant workers are entitled to the same kinds of reasonable accommodations that non-pregnant workers are entitled to when disabilities prohibit them from engaging in certain kinds of tasks. The defense advanced by UPS is that it accommodates disabled individuals but is “pregnancy blind.” Failure to reasonably accommodate pregnant workers as outlined by the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act is not defensible behavior, nor is blindness to a worker’s safety needs a defense for discriminatory behavior.

Source: Forbes, “Supreme Court Takes Up UPS Pregnancy Discrimination Case,” Ashlea Ebeling, July 9, 2014

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