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Supreme Court: Pregnant Driver Can Sue UPS

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

The U.S. Supreme Court revived a UPS employee's claim that the company discriminated against her while she was pregnant. Peggy Young contends UPS refused to lighten her work load during her pregnancy, and sued the company under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

Lower courts had dismissed the case, but the Supreme Court voted 6-3 to send the case back for a full hearing on the merits.

Pregnancy Accommodations

The crux of the case is whether UPS provided the same accommodations to Young while she was pregnant as it did to non-pregnant workers. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, employers are required to offer pregnant women similar accommodations as those for other workers with similar physical limitations.

Young had been a UPS driver for four years when she made a request to refrain from lifting boxes heavier than 20 pounds in 2006. Young was told she needed a doctor's note, and even after she got one, UPS denied her request for accommodation.

Young lost her job and health insurance, and sued the company for pack pay and damages.

A New Life

A federal district court and an appeals court had earlier dismissed Young's claims. UPS had argued that the Pregnancy Act only prohibited intentional discrimination, and did not require accommodation. The Supreme Court disagreed, and now the district court will hear evidence as to whether UPS treated Young equally.

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the majority opinion, and said there is a "genuine dispute as to whether UPS provided more favorable treatment to at least some employees whose situation cannot reasonably be distinguished from Young's."

Attorneys from both sides seemed pleased with the result, although dissenting judges called the majority's interpretation "dubious" and "senseless." It's anybody's guess whether Young will win her case, and what effect it will have on employers if she does.

UPS said it instituted pregnancy accommodations beginning this year. 

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