Supreme Court addresses pregnancy-related disabilities

A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling could affect the rights of pregnant workers nationwide, including those in Florida. The case, Young v. United Parcel Service, addressed the question of workplace pregnancy discrimination and the extent to which employers are required to make accommodations for pregnancy-related disabilities.

Young v. UPS case background

Peggy Young, the plaintiff in the case, was employed by UPS, the defendant. In 2006, Young became pregnant and was instructed by her doctor to avoid lifting more than 20 pounds. Because her position as a delivery driver typically required her to lift up to 70 pounds, Young requested that she be temporarily switched to light-duty work during her pregnancy. However, the company declined that request and, because she had already used all of her paid leave, required her to take an unpaid leave of absence instead.

Young filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging that it had discriminated against her on the basis of gender and pregnancy in violation of federal law. Specifically, Young claimed that the company's actions were discriminatory because it had granted similar requests for accommodation for other workers for non-pregnancy-related temporary disabilities.

A new standard for accommodating pregnant workers

The Supreme Court case did not directly answer the question of whether the company's actions had constituted pregnancy or gender discrimination. Instead, the Court articulated the standard to be applied in such scenarios and sent the case back to the lower court to be determined at that level, where the outcome has not yet been determined.

In its written opinion for the case, the Court concluded that employers must have a legitimate reason for accommodating workers with pregnancy-related disabilities differently than non-pregnant workers with similar disabilities. Thus, while the Court did not go so far as to say that the two classes must be treated identically regardless of other factors, it clarified that employers may not arbitrarily treat pregnant workers less favorably without valid reasons for the disparity.

Help is available if you have experienced discrimination

If your employer has treated you in a way that you believe may constitute illegal pregnancy discrimination, be sure to talk things over with a lawyer. Under both the state laws of Florida and the federal laws of the United States, there are several different protections available for pregnant workers to help ensure that they are treated fairly in the workplace. For more information about these laws and how they pertain to your individual situation, contact the Law Office of William M. Julien, P.A.