The Supreme Court will decide whether UPS violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) when it refused to provide a temporary light duty assignment to Peggy Young when she was pregnant 7 years ago before giving birth to her daughter, Triniti. The assignment would have allowed Young to work but avoid lifting heavy packages, as her physician had ordered. The issue is whether UPS violated the law by its policy of providing temporary light duty only to employees who had on-the-job injuries, were disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act, or lost their federal driver certification.
It is well-settled that drawing a distinction between pregnant and nonpregnant employees in the workplace is generally unlawful, unless there is a legitimate business reason to justify the distinction. In 1978, Congress passed the PDA in response to the Supreme Court ruling that workplace rules that excluded pregnant workers from disability benefits and insurance coverage were not sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In this case UPS argues that unless Young can show that it intentionally discriminated against her, she has no case. Young contends that UPS “told me basically to go home and come back when I was no longer pregnant.” Young is now 42 and it has taken 7 years to get before the Court.
The Obama administration and 120 Democrats in Congress have submitted a brief supporting Young’s position. Moreover, the EEOC has updated guidance to employers to clarify that they should accommodate workers like Young. Likewise, UPS has since changed its policy so that pregnant employees are eligible for the light duty assignment.
Nonetheless, the Court’s decision is expected to have far-reaching impact in workforces across the nation as 75% of women entering the workforce today will become pregnant at least once while employed, and many will be forced to work throughout their pregnancies, or face possible termination during their pregnancies or upon their return. Stay tuned for the decision.
For workplace issues, such as pregnancy, sex discrimination, light duty or leave policies, contact the Gilbert Law Group at 631.630.0100.
Discrimination because of sex related to pregnancy is unlawful under both Federal and State law. See, Civil Rights Act of 1964, § 701(k), 42 U.S.C.A. § 2000e(k), McKinneys Executive Law § 296 et seq. This is a form of discrimination that can be considered both sex discrimination and/or disability discrimination.
Pregnancy in the workplace was in the news this past week as several large employers made headlines for their respective policies relating to egg freezing. Indeed, companies are offering to pay for women to freeze their ova so that they can work through their most productive and fertile years, without losing the ability to have children.
First, it was announced that Facebook and Apple will begin offering insurance coverage for female employees to freeze their eggs for later fertilization and implantation, a procedure that can cost as much as $20,000. Then Citigroup announced the same plan.
This is naturally controversial. While some women will be grateful for the fully paid-for benefit, others, as noted in this New York Times blog post, could perceive this as putting pressure on women to stay childless as long as they want to advance their careers.
This issue has not been litigated as of yet mostly because these work policies are germinal and have just been implemented. While there is nothing facially unlawful about these policies, it could become evidence in a lawsuit brought by a woman who is turned down for a promotion, terminated, or harassed because of pregnancy, or because of actual or perceived “maternal” responsibilities.
Call Gilbert Law Group today for counsel related to pregnancy issues in the workplace, sex discrimination, or disability discrimination: (631)630-0100
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee based on his or her race, color, sex, religion or national origin (see 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2).
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in a lawsuit filed today that a Detroit-based funeral home operator discriminated based on sex in violation of federal law by firing a Garden City, Michigan, funeral director/embalmer due to the fact that she is transgender, because she was transitioning from male to female, and/or because she did not conform to the employer’s gender-based expectations, preferences, or stereotypes.
In December 2012, the EEOC adopted a Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP) for sex discrimination to include “coverage of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals under Title VII’s sex discrimination provisions…” as a top Commission enforcement policy.
Harris is a funeral home company with multiple establishments in and around the Detroit area. Amiee Stephens had been employed by Harris as a Funeral Director/Embalmer since October 2007. During her tenure, she had always adequately performed the duties of that position. In 2013, she gave Harris a letter explaining she had decided to undergo a gender transition from male to female, and would soon start to present (e.g., dress) in appropriate business attire at work, compatible with her gender identity as a woman. Two weeks later, Harris’ owner fired Stephens, telling her that what she was “proposing to do” was intolerable.
The Commission has relied on rationale from well-settled Supreme Court precedent regarding sex discrimination. The Commission and the Court recognize that when an employer considers an employee’s sex in taking an adverse action – for example, if an employer terminates a transgender employee based on its judgment that the employee does not conform to the employer’s stereotypes regarding how someone “born” that sex should live or look – the employer will violate Title VII.