Wednesday, April 22, 2015

U.S. Supreme Court Case - Potential Victory for Pregnant Employees

On March 25, 2015 the United States Supreme Court remanded a pregnancy discrimination case back to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit Court. Petitioner Young was a part-time driver for respondent United Parcel Service (UPS). Young became pregnant in 2006 after suffering from several miscarriages. Young was advised to not lift more than twenty pounds during her pregnancy. However, as a part-time driver for UPS, Young was required to lift parcels weighing up to seventy pounds. Young requested a light-duty job accommodation, but UPS denied the request. Young filed a suit alleging the company violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA).
The District Court granted UPS summary judgment, concluding, that Young could not make out a prima facie case of discrimination under McDonnell Douglas. The Fourth Circuit affirmed. The US Supreme Court concluded that that Young created a genuine dispute as to where UPS provided more favorable treatment to at least some employees whose situation cannot reasonably be distinguished from hers. In reaching this conclusion, the Court relied on the second clause of the PDA, which was determined to be unclear and open to interpretation. The Court had concerns as to “what other applicants or employees” was initially intended to mean. Further, Young presented evidence that UPS accommodates most non-pregnant employees with lifting limitations, yet, refuses to accommodate pregnant employees. The case was remanded, shifting the burden to UPS to provide a reason for refusing Young’s accommodation.

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