Do pregnant women have a right to request certain accommodations in the same way that those who have been injured or otherwise have developed work limitations do? The Supreme Court will hear a case on Wednesday arguing that under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for workers' pregnancies.
The case coming before the court, Young vs. UPS, involves Peggy Young, who once delivered envelopes and packages as a driver for United Parcel Service. After Young got pregnant, her doctor told her to avoid any heavy lifting. The company responded to the medical advice by putting Young on unpaid leave. At that point, she earned the bulk of the income in her family.
The parcels Young was required to lift were, for the most part, less than 20 pounds—far lighter than the flower arrangements she was also delivering during that time for her afternoon job. She asked co-workers to help her with heavier packages.
Attorneys for Young will argue that UPS made far greater accommodations for drivers who had lost their licenses due to DUIs or others who had injured their bodies on the job. UPS does not dispute these other accommodations. Rather, they will argue that pregnant workers did not fall into this class of workers required to be given accommodations, according to the New York Times.
Support for Young's case comes from women's rights groups and anti-abortion activists alike. The Obama administration has also come out in favor of including pregnant workers in laws requiring accommodation.
Women make up 47 percent of the workforce. A recent study shows that 40 percent of working women are the sole or primary breadwinners in their families, making unpaid leave an unsustainable option for the economy, the workplace and individual lives.
Supreme Court rulings favoring women have been few lately, and this case is being watched closely by women's rights activists and organizations representing business interests.
In the meantime, UPS announced that its policy will change in January and will accommodate pregnant workers.