Prepare and make ready your gender equality buzzwords.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits sex discrimination against pregnant women, but how far does Title VII require an employer to go to accommodate pregnant workers who develop conditions limiting their ability to do their jobs? We already know an employer can’t use a pregnancy to fire an employee, cut her pay, or deny her health benefits, but should they be forced to go so far as to offer up alternative work during the duration of the pregnancy?
This morning, the Supreme Court will tackled Young v. United Parcel Service, which asks whether, and in what circumstances, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(k), requires an employer that provides work accommodations to non-pregnant employees with work limitations to provide work accommodations to pregnant employees who are “similar in their ability or inability to work.”
Bloomberg has the facts of the case:
Young worked out of a UPS facility in Landover, Maryland. Her job required her to load packages onto vehicles and deliver them to their destination. Although she says the vast majority of those packages were envelope-size, her job description required her to lift parcels of up to 70 pounds.
In 2006, Young became pregnant after in vitro fertilization, and her doctor and midwife said she shouldn’t lift objects weighing more than 20 pounds during the first half of the pregnancy or more than 10 pounds for the rest.
She says UPS refused to accommodate her needs either by adjusting her job responsibilities or by temporarily assigning her to a position that didn’t require heavy lifting.
There were “many, many jobs” she could have performed at the Landover facility, including those that required only handling phone calls or addressing packages, she said in an e-mailed response to a reporter’s question. She also said she would have worked in a nearby facility if the company preferred.
“I was flexible,” Young said. “I just needed my job.”
She went on an unpaid leave of absence and returned to work after her baby was born. She later left UPS.
End game aside, it’s a fair question: if you have another, similar group you’re accommodating with lighter work during a temporary disability, why not include into the mix pregnant women who develop similar disabilities?
To be honest, I’d never really thought about it before I read the briefs in this case; I assumed that they were covered. Young has a long list of amici at her disposal—everyone from anti-abortion groups to the White House has stepped up to ask the Court to take another look at the wording of the Title VII to see if it covers women like Young.
Business associations, on the other hand, are concerned that employers’ ability to implement neutral employment policies would be affected, as well as their ability to offer more desirable positions to more senior employees, and create distinctions between part time and full time positions.
According to reports following oral arguments, the Court doesn’t appear to have signed on to either position. We’ll keep you posted on how the case progresses.DONATE
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