On March 25, 2015, the United States Supreme Court ruled on behalf of Peggy Young, a former United Parcel Service (UPS) employee who sued the company for failing to accommodate her 2006 pregnancy by giving her light duty. Young now has the opportunity to pursue her discrimination claim, which had been dismissed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Young v. United Parcel Service, No. 12-1226, Sup. Ct. March 25, 2015).
Under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, employers must treat “women affected by pregnancy . . . the same for all employment-related purposes . . . as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work.” Young claimed UPS violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act because the company treated her differently from other UPS workers who were given accommodations.
Although the Supreme Court ruled that Young created a genuine dispute as to some material fact (UPS treated non-pregnant employees workers who were “similar in their ability or inability to work” differently than it treated Young) and the case should not have been dismissed, it rejected her suggested test for determining whether UPS actually violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
Instead, the Court created its own test. According to the Supreme Court, a pregnant worker who “seeks to show disparate treatment” has to establish a prima facie case by showing the employer refused to accommodate her while accommodating others “similar in their ability or inability to work.” That way the employer has a chance to prove it had legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for denying accommodation, and the plaintiff has the opportunity to show the given reasons are pretextual.
The Supreme Court vacated the Fourth Circuit’s judgment and remanded the case back to the Fourth Circuit, which will not determine whether Young created a genuine issue of material fact as to whether UPS’ reasons for having treated Young less favorably than other non-pregnant employees were pretextual.
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