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UPS defended itself in a pregnancy discrimination case before the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, in a case which business owners should keep on their radars.
The case, Young v. United Parcel Service, involved pregnant UPS driver Peggy Young and a policy that refused to give her lighter duty. The High Court is set to determine whether the policy and its implementation by UPS violated federal laws on pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.
In the meantime, here are five things employers should know about this UPS pregnancy case:
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) was passed in 1978, effectively adding pregnant persons to the list of classes which most employers are prohibited from discriminating against. Before this legislation, there was some question as to whether discriminating against pregnant women was illegal gender discrimination, but this act of Congress says that it is.
Pregnant workers often need accommodation in their daily duties based on the physical effects of their pregnancies. The PDA allows employers to treat pregnant employees the same "as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work." Many have interpreted this language as allowing employers to accommodate pregnant women similar to those who would receive accommodation for ADA-recognized disabilities.
Often company policies can be neutral on their face, but still have discriminatory effects. UPS' policy has been described by its attorneys as treating pregnant workers the same as other non-injured workers, only by giving accommodations to "on-the-job" injuries.
In many ways this case is a principled one, as The Guardian reports UPS has since changed its policy to allow pregnant women to receive accommodations.
While state disability laws differ on this issue, the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not include pregnancy as a "disability." This means that employers are not required by the ADA to offer pregnant women reasonable accommodations because of pregnancy. However, pregnancy has been known to aggravate or spur mental and physical conditions which are considered disabilities (like chronic back pain or fatigue), which may require reasonable accommodation.
Consult with an experienced business attorney to fine tune your policies to account for pregnant workers, and read more about a small business' role in preventing discrimination in FindLaw's section on Discrimination and Harassment.
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