The Supreme Court Ruling On Pregnancy Discrimination By UPS Is Set To Be A Game-Changer
In an instance about as rare as TSA Pre-Check status, traditionally pro-choice and anti-abortion groups have fallen on the same side of an issue. On Wednesday, SCOTUS will consider a pregnancy discrimination case that will determine if UPS had the right to let go one of its pregnant employees.
The case is a pivotal moment for a narrowly interpreted Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Liberal advocacy groups such as the ACLU, Legal Momentum, and pro-choice groups have joined in an odd-couple pairing with 23 anti-abortion organizations, all who are fighting to preserve rights for pregnant women.
The case involves Peggy Young, a former UPS driver who says she her treatment while pregnant violated the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The act states:
...women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions 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...
When she became pregnant in 2006, Young brought a note from her doctor recommending that she not lift over 20 pounds. She had driven a UPS truck for four years, working early morning shifts driving to the airport. Young says she explained to her doctor that she generally dealt with only light parcels and envelopes. When she delivered the requested note to the company nurse, the nurse said that the company would not grant her light duty assignments. Her job technically required that she should be able to lift up to 70 pounds. Young was put on unpaid leave, which caused her to lose her health benefits.
UPS argues that it followed the law when it denied Young light-duty work. Its former policy only allowed such modifications if an employee was injured on the job. So their refusal to accommodate Young and her off-site "condition" was in line with company policy and the treatment of its other employees. In realizing that they were about to catch a lot of flack for being horrible, UPS has since amended its policy to include temporary light-duty work for pregnant employees.
Historically, both sides of the contentious abortion argument have rallied for the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Anti-abortion groups believe that if pregnant women secure more rights, they are more likely to continue with the pregnancy. And treating pregnancy as a "condition" neatly falls in the purview of pro-choice groups, who have a long-standing history of fighting for women's rights.
So while they have motivation, a collective cry from all women's groups should send a clear message — there's a need for a reform. In the last few months, six states and three cities have adopted laws specifically securing fair treatment for pregnant women, and there is pending legislation in several other states.
The decision could have a huge impact on women, who are somehow magically expected to be baby-making machines and seamlessly continue their professional careers. But without proper workplace treatment, many women could have to choose between pregnancy and paychecks.
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