New life came into a discrimination case against the United Parcel Service after a Supreme Court ruling that clarifies the legal protections for pregnant employees. UPS and other workers in Indiana might have heard that the company was being sued for not accommodating a pregnant employee. While the lower courts had agreed with the company, the Supreme Court justices are siding with the worker.
In 2006, the UPS employee became pregnant and notified her supervisors that she should not pick up packages weighing more than 20 pounds per doctor instruction. Later in the pregnancy, this weight was reduced to 10 pounds. Although her shift mostly required the delivery of letters and light packages, her supervisor said that picking up heavier packages was a condition of her employment, making her request inconsistent with company policy.
The worker took leave from work without pay or medical benefits; she returned to work after her daughter was born. Later, she submitted a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and then filed a federal lawsuit against the company.
The lower courts ruled that UPS did not violate the Pregnancy Discrimination Act because its policy provided lighter duties for workers of other categories. In the March 25 ruling, however, the Supreme Court ruled that the employee should have another opportunity to show that UPS was wrong because the act states that pregnant workers are to be treated the same as others with similar ability limits.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed in 1978, making discrimination based on pregnancy, related medical conditions and childbirth a type of sex discrimination. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against workers based on sex and other factors. Workers who believe they have become the victims of discrimination under these acts could file complaints with the EEOC or talk to private attorneys.
Source: Washington Post, “Justices revive case claiming UPS discriminated against pregnant worker“, Robert Barnes and Brigid Schulte, March 25, 2015