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Pregnancy discrimination case goes to Supreme Court

Indiana residents may be interested to learn that the Supreme Court of the United States has agreed to tackle a pregnancy discrimination case involving an employer that required a pregnant employee to take an unpaid leave of absence rather than granting her restricted duty. The Court is reviewing whether it is unlawful discrimination for an employer to refuse to provide reasonable accommodations for a pregnant employee if accommodations would have been made for a non-pregnant employee in similar circumstances.

The case arose eight years ago when a pregnant employee asked her employer if she could stop heavy lifting due to her pregnancy. When they made her take a leave of absence instead, she sued, arguing that refusing to treat a pregnant employee the same as any other employee with a short-term disability violates the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act. One supporter of family-friendly workplaces points out that if a company could find light duty for an employee with a broken leg, it should be able to find light duty for a woman carrying a child. The company, however, claims that its internal policies are consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has stated that pregnancy-related guidelines are a priority. The Commission has filed more than 260 pregnancy-related suits through 2012. The U.S. Solicitor General filed an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court not to hear the case until the EEOC finishes its review. However, advocates for family-friendly workplaces believe that a decision is necessary now to protect pregnant women.

It is a violation of federal law for an employer to refuse to make reasonable accommodations for an employee with a disability. When employers discriminate against workers, a local attorney may be able to help seek reinstatement and back pay.

Source: Forbes, "Supreme Court Takes Up UPS Pregnancy Discrimination Case", Ashlea Ebeling, July 09, 2014

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