Since the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) was adopted in 1978, there have many questions over exactly what constitutes employment discrimination against pregnant women.
District courts around the country have defined the protections afforded to pregnant workers by the PDA both narrowly and broadly, which doesn’t give much certainty to employers or employees.
However, earlier this month, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a pregnancy discrimination case that could help clear up the ambiguity.
The case involves the United Parcel Service and a former delivery driver who became pregnant and was told by her doctor that she could not lift packages over 20 lbs, something that was required but rare of her position.
The driver asked for a temporary light-duty assignment for the duration of her pregnancy, but UPS refused, instead requiring the woman to go on unpaid leave until she had delivered her child and could return to her normal job duties.
The woman eventually filed a lawsuit against UPS, alleging that the company’s policy regarding light-duty assignments was discriminatory to pregnant women under the PDA.
At the time, UPS’s policy afforded accommodations to workers who were injured on the job, had a federally-recognized disability or had lost their license to drive.
UPS argued that its policy was not discriminatory against pregnant women because pregnant women could still qualify for a light-duty assignment by meeting one of the three requirements. Two lower courts sided with UPS before the nation’s highest court agreed to weigh in on the case.
It will likely be months before the Court issues a decision in the case, but when it does, employers and employees alike could be left with a greater understanding of their expectations and protections under the PDA.
Depending on the outcome of the case, various employers may have to alter their current policies regarding pregnant employees to make sure that they are in compliance with the law.