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What Today’s SCOTUS Ruling Means For Pregnant Employees

A former UPS driver’s claims of discrimination put her at the center of a social media campaign; today the top court ruled in her favor.

What Today’s SCOTUS Ruling Means For Pregnant Employees
[Photo: Flickr user Esparta Palma]

Hopeful news for working families today: In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court threw out a lower court ruling which blocked a woman’s discrimination lawsuit against her former employer, reviving the case.

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Peggy Young, a former driver for United Parcel Service, became the poster woman for working moms, sparking a #standwithpeggy social media campaign with some high-profile support and petitions supporting her rights at work.

Young claims that when she asked to move to less labor-intensive tasks at work–no longer lifting and hauling 70-lb. parcels for example–UPS denied the request. She sued for discrimination, maintaining that UPS violated a federal law, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy.

Today’s SCOTUS ruling follows the president’s proposal for more paid pregnancy leave and the FAMILY Act introduced last week, which would would require U.S. companies to offer their workers paid time away for childbirth, among other family and medical leaves. Her case claims that she was denied these requests for lighter physical work, while the company honored the requests of other workers with injuries.

“While most employers provided accommodations to pregnant employees, the Court now makes clear that pregnancy accommodations are not optional in certain circumstances,” says employment lawyer Lucretia C. Clemons. Part of this ruling established a test for employees to assert “a failure to accommodate claim,” under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. This type of litigation gets costly for employers, Clemons says; it can be very expensive to undergo a discovery process involving many employees when they’re accused of discrimination against one.

With companies like Vodafone acting as an example to other companies for stepping up their leave policies for families, this ruling marks progress in keeping employers accountable for how they handle paternity leave and policies–even if the U.S. still lags in its treatment of pregnant women.

About the author

Freelance tech, science and culture writer. Find Sam on the Internet: @samleecole.

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