The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today in a case involving the rights of pregnant workers, Young v. United Parcel Service. A large group of pro-life organizations—23 of them—have advocated to protect pregnant workers from discrimination, putting them in an unusual position alongside pro-choice feminist groups.
The case involves Peggy Young, a former UPS driver who became pregnant and, on the basis of a recommendation from the doctor, requested temporary reassignment to a light-duty job that would not require her to lift boxes of more than 20 pounds. UPS offered such reassignments to workers with limitations similar to Young’s: when they had on-the-job injuries, disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act, or a variety of conditions that caused a driver to lose his or her Department of Transportation commercial driving license. But pregnancy was not among these categories, and so UPS denied Young a similar accommodation.
Young sued under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (the PDA), which prohibits pregnancy discrimination in the workplace as a form of sex discrimination and also, in a distinct clause, requires that employers give pregnant employees the same treatment as they give to nonpregnant employees “similar in their ability or inability to work.”
Young argued that UPS had violated the second clause by treating other conditions, but not pregnancy, as worthy of accommodation. She lost in the court of appeals, which ruled that the PDA was not violated unless UPS had a policy singling out pregnancy as a condition it would not accommodate.
The ruling suggests that an employer can refuse to accommodate pregnant employees as long as there are any other employees ...1