The case of a pregnant United Parcel Service (UPS) driver who was denied light duty to accommodate her heavy-lifting restrictions will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court next year. The Court will determine whether UPS’s refusal to give the driver light duty was a violation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), and whether in some circumstances the PDA requires accommodation akin to those of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
As it stands, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act forbids discrimination based on pregnancy when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits (leave and health insurance), and any other term or condition of employment.
Under the PDA, if a woman is temporarily unable to perform her job due to a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth, her employer must treat her in the same way as it treats any other temporarily disabled employee.
Impairments resulting from pregnancy may be disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but there is no hard line to determine which pregnancy-related impairments would qualify. If a disability does qualify, an employer would have to provide a reasonable accommodation, such as leave or modifications that enable an employee to perform her job.
The pregnancy discrimination issue has been receiving attention by lawmakers are courts nationwide. In similar cases, lower courts have ruled in UPS’s favor, stating that the company policies are “pregnancy-neutral.” There is also an act before Congress, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which would expressly require employers to grant reasonable accommodation for an employee’s work limitations caused by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.
In the case going before the Supreme Court, the female plaintiff alleges UPS violated the PDA by requiring her to go on unpaid maternity leave, rather than giving her a position that was less strenuous (a reasonable accommodation). Hopefully, the Court’s decision will shed light on questions surrounding exiting anti-pregnancy discrimination laws.