About 75% of the 68 million working women in the United States will become pregnant. Of these women, there is an increased likelihood of workplace discrimination and hostility in terms of employment and work benefits once they have children. Recognizing this, Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) in 1978 as an effort to eliminate discrimination for those affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or other related reproductive conditions. While PDA ensures many essential freedoms for these women, work-place prejudice still persists; but things are looking up with recent strides such as Young v. UPS.
The recent U.S. Supreme Court case, Young v. UPS (United Parcel Service), helps pregnant women around the nation to ensure their legal freedoms. With a 6-3 margin, the court sided with Peggy Young, making it a big win for pregnant women and their employment protection everywhere.
Peggy Young was a UPS pick-up and delivery driver when she became pregnant in 2006 and was instructed by her doctor not to lift any heavy packages more than 20 pounds. In light of this, UPS informed Young that they needed drivers to be able to lift parcels up to 70 pounds and that they would not let co-workers help her and refused to re-assign her, resulting in her being placed on leave without pay. Her employee ensured medical coverage was cut off as well.
The plaintiff (Young) argued that UPS’s inability to accommodate the conditions of her pregnancy, while they have other terms accommodating other employee’s who cannot do temporarily do heaving lifting as well due to different circumstances (disability, injury etc.), was illegal and discriminatory, as filled under the PDA.
While the U.S. Supreme Court ruling is more complex and up to interpretation of the law, what makes this case monumental is the understanding that employers’ must begin to have more inclusive and uniform accommodations for all groups of employees, including pregnant women. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act requires that employers treat pregnant women “the same for all employment-related purposes . . . as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work.” Working off of this clause, Young’s case is a landmark victory in ensuring that pregnant women and treated with the same respect as all other work-place colleagues going through select circumstances and disabilities.
Accommodating pregnant women is not only beneficial for business productivity and work-place attitudes, but also is pivotal in ensuring women’s rights and the prevention of sexist hiring and retention practices. Employers holding a “pregnancy bias” when filling new and keeping employed positions, need to work towards respecting women’s bodies and their choices. Moving forward, the growing amount of women in the workforce need to be informed of their rights such as the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, state-by-state accommodations, important national legal rulings such as Young v. UPS, and continue to combat workplace discrimination.
Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.