Supreme Court Says Woman Can Sue UPS In Pregnancy Dispute

Peggy Young finally got a victory today in the Supreme Court. The former driver for the United Parcel Service (UPS), who had lost two rounds in lower court, won the votes 6-3 in Wednesday’s Supreme Court, reviving her right to take her case of discrimination back to the lower courts, as reported by Associated Press.

When Young learned she was pregnant via in-vitro fertilization, her doctor recommended that she not lift anything heavy. Young’s doctor wrote a note for her supervisor advising against Young lifting anything weighing more than 20 pounds. The normal requirement for a UPS worker is 70 pounds.

New York Times reports that UPS refused to give Young a lighter workload, and put her on an unpaid leave in 2006. Young’s supervisor made it very clear that “UPS only provided accommodations to three categories of workers: those who had been injured on the job, those who lost their Department of Transportation certification, and those who have a disability as defined by the Americans with Disability Act,” according to CNN.

Young decided to sue UPS for discrimination under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act. This Act protects pregnant women by requiring their employer to treat “women affected by pregnancy the same as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work,” as reported by New York Times.

Unfortunately for Young, the case was thrown out by a unanimous vote by a panel of three judges. One of those judges, Judge Allyson Kay Duncan, stated, “One may characterize the UPS policy as insufficiently charitable, but a lack of charity does not amount to discriminatory animus directed at a protected class of employees.”

Young didn’t let the lower courts keep her from pursuing what she felt was right. She continued her fight until she reached the Supreme Court. Based on the outcome of the vote on Wednesday, Young will now have the opportunity to have her case resurrected in the lower court.

However, she will have the burden of proof on her shoulders. CNN reveals that Justice Stephen Breyer stated that Young will need to “create a genuine issue of material fact as to whether a significant burden exists by providing evidence that the employer accommodates a large percentage of nonpregnant workers while failing to accommodate a large percentage of pregnant workers.”

Young’s lawyer, Samuel Bagenstos, was happy about the Supreme Court vote, saying it is a “big win not just for Peggy Young, but also for all women in the workplace… It is a big step forward towards enforcing the principle that a woman shouldn’t have to choose between her pregnancy and her job.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy said a mouthful when he revealed to CNN his belief that women who are in the work force, whether by choice or due to financial necessity, face a serious disadvantage after becoming pregnant. Justice Kennedy goes on further to say that laws have been created to help alleviate the difficulties faced by women.

“These Acts honor and safeguard the important contributions women make to both the workplace and the American family.”

UPS Public Relations Director Susan Rosenberg boldly stated that UPS is confident that “the courts will find that UPS did not discriminate against Ms. Young,” as per CNN.

Nevertheless, upon learning that the Supreme Court was hearing Young’s case, UPS quickly changed their policy and began allowing accommodations for pregnant women. But is it possible that happened a little too late? The courts will have to decide.

[Photo Credit: L.A. Times]