Peggy Young won her UPS pregnancy discrimination case. Here's why we all need to know what happened.
When Peggy Young, a part-time driver for UPS (United Parcel Service), found out she was pregnant, her midwife advised her that she should not lift anything over 20 pounds. Because lifting boxes as heavy as 70 pounds was a minimum requirement and a regular part of her job, she asked UPS to be put on “light duty,” an option given to disabled and injured employees unable to partake in heavy lifting.
“I wanted to work,” Young said to The Huffington Post. “I all but begged for them to let me work.”
But her request was denied, and her manager told her “she was too much of a liability” to continue as a driver or take on a different assignment. Young’s only alternative was to take unpaid leave without health benefits — and she sued UPS for discrimination. Seems pretty fair to us.
However, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (a federal appeals court) ruled in favor of UPS, stating that Young’s case was not one of pregnancy discrimination and that granting her “light duty” would give her an unfair advantage over other employees. In doing so, Young never had the opportunity to bring her case to trial — a violation of federal civil rights law.
Well, now, in a major win for women everywhere, Young’s case went to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court has ruled 6 to 3 in favor of Young to have her case heard in court. This is a big deal and hugely important, because regardless of the outcome of her trial, it brings attention to a type of discrimination not often taken seriously enough.
“It’s not just about me; it’s about all women considering becoming pregnant,” Young told the Huffington Post. As Politico put it, “The decision, which allows pregnant women to sue their employer even when they don’t have direct evidence of discrimination, will likely prompt employers to accommodate pregnant employees more readily than they have in the past.” That’s a win if you ask us.
The basis of Young’s case is that because she was pregnant, she wasn’t given the same consideration as other employees who might be considered disabled, injured, or otherwise unable to work — a violation of The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978.
“The petition in this case presents an issue of great significance for working women in the United States, who comprise nearly half the labor force,” stated , “The vast majority of working women will become pregnant at some point during their working lives, and many of them will experience at least minor conflicts between job requirements or working conditions and the temporary, but real physical effects of pregnancy.”
“Moreover, the women most in need of the PDA’s protection are most harmed by the ruling below,” the brief continued, “The persistence of pregnancy discrimination in the workplace is well documented, but it is who are most likely to experience temporary conflicts between the physical effects of pregnancy and job requirements.”
As Think Progress reports, “11 amicus briefs were filed supporting Young and none supporting UPS.” Aside from the federal appeals court who had ruled in their favor, UPS didn’t have really have too many people on their side for this one — and in a huge (bonus) win, the company has changed its policy to allow pregnant workers to continue “light duty” at work, in light of Young’s lawsuit.
“The court made clear that employers may not refuse to accommodate pregnant workers based on considerations of cost or convenience when they accommodate other workers,” Young’s lawyer, Samuel Bagenstos, told The Week. “It’s a big step forward towards enforcing the principle that a woman shouldn’t have to choose between her pregnancy and her job.”
Oh and by the way, Peggy’s unborn baby? She’s now a 7-year-old girl named Trinity. Here’s hoping Trinity’s generation doesn’t have to fight for their pregnancy rights and that these policies stick.