Supreme Court Interprets Pregnancy Discrimination Act

In a 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to follow the EEOC’s guidance in accommodating pregnant employees seeking light-duty accommodations, a decision that is also applicable to the federal sector, which similarly must abide by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Young v. United Parcel Service, No. 12-1226 (3/25/15). The court held that the UPS did not have to offer pregnant employees light-duty assignments although it later changed its policy to do so. However, pregnant employees can still allege discrimination but will have to have to prove that the employer’s alleged legitimate business reason was a pretext for discrimination.

Plaintiff Young was a part-time UPS driver who was required to lift 70 lbs. under UPS policy, but her doctor limited her to 20 lbs. As a result, she spent most of her pregnancy at home without pay. She alleged the discriminatory failure to accommodate her pregnancy-related lifting restriction while other employees with medical restrictions were accommodated. Young lost on summary judgment in both the district and court of appeals as the lower courts held that the non-pregnant employees were not similarly situated.

The Supreme Court reversed the summary judgment and remanded the case to the district court for a determination as to whether UPS provided more favorable treatment to some similarly situated non-pregnant employees. The dissenting justices argued that “if a pregnant woman is denied an accommodation under a policy that does not discriminate against pregnancy, she has been ‘treated the same’ as everyone else.

* This information is provided by the attorneys at Passman & Kaplan, P.C.