Do The Right Thing Here, SCOTUS

by Abby Johnston

SCOTUS IS BACK, BABY! We're just days away from the 2014-2015 Supreme Court session, which begins the first Monday in October. And oooooh WEE, do they have some thorny subjects on the docket. Alongside voting rights and foreign policy, the Supreme Court will tackle a pregnancy discrimination case that effectively decides if a woman with child still deserves basic human decency or not. So glad you're back, SCOTUS!

Peggy Young became pregnant while working for the United Parcel Service. As requested by an occupational health manager for UPS, Young filed a note from her midwife detailing work restriction. The midwife suggested Young should not lift more than 20 pounds while she was serving as an incubator for human life.

UPS said that because of this restriction, Young was unable to perform her duties as an air driver. The position technically required Young to life up to 70 pounds by herself, although Young alleges that she rarely dealt with such heavy packages. When she requested to be put on "light duty," which she would've been eligible for if injured on the job, the company apparently told her that she was a liability and booted her pregnant-self out with six months of unpaid leave.

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Young sued UPS under the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), which states that pregnant women "shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes, including receipt of benefits under fringe benefit programs, as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work." Young lost in both district court and the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that UPS' accommodation policy, which treats ladies afflicted with pregnancy the same as someone who is injured offsite and unable to perform work-related activities, was in line with the PDA for not discriminating against Young for her pregnancy. In other words, they effectively laid her off correctly.

Does that infuriate you? Well, you can join a rag-tag group defending Young's right to work that includes the ACLU, women's rights organizations, U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce, medical associations, and 23 anti-abortion groups. Yes, pro-life groups. It seems both sides of the aisle have joined hands to skip through the field of infuriating legal processes together. It's sweet, really.

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Anti-abortion groups argue that the difficult legal hurdles and all-around unfair treatment that Young received may drive women who become pregnant to obtain abortions to avoid missing work. Meanwhile, women's rights groups contend that giving pregnant women the same treatment as someone who sustained an offsite job injury is completely ludicrous. Hey, it's different paths to get to working rights for pregnant women, but a means to the same end, I guess?

So hold onto your hats, because starting Oct. 6 we're in for a wild ride. Cross your fingers for the extreme likelihood that marriage equality and abortion sneak onto the docket before the session ends in June.

Images: Getty Images (2)