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UPS Changes Workplace Policy Amid Supreme Court Pregnancy Discrimination Case

UPS Changes Workplace Policy Amid Supreme Court Pregnancy Discrimination Case

October 30, 2014 — UPS in a Supreme Court brief announced that, effective Jan. 1, it will change its workplace policy to allow pregnant employees to work temporary light-duty assignments, the Washington Post's "She The People" reports.

The company announced the new policy to employees in a memo released Monday (Schulte, "She The People," Washington Post, 10/29).

Background on Supreme Court Case

The Supreme Court case, Young v. UPS, involves former UPS driver Peggy Young, who was denied a light-duty assignment that would have allowed her to continue working during her pregnancy. Young took an unpaid leave of absence and returned to her job after giving birth but lost her employer-sponsored health benefits during the leave of absence.

She sued UPS under the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PL 95-555). A federal judge and a Virginia-based appeals court both ruled against Young, finding that UPS' policy treated pregnant and non-pregnant employees alike (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/12).

Young appealed the case to the Supreme Court, which in July agreed to review the lawsuit (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/2). According to "She The People," the high court will hear oral arguments in the case on Dec. 3.

Potential Effect on Supreme Court Case

In its brief, UPS said the new policy does not mean its decision to deny Young a light-duty accommodation was illegal. UPS lawyers wrote, "While UPS's denial of [Young's] accommodation request was lawful at the time it was made (and thus cannot give rise to a claim for damages), pregnant UPS employees will prospectively be eligible for light-duty assignments."

The brief states that the new policy is not required under the PDA. Instead, the company said it changed its policy in response to updated guidelines on pregnancy accommodations from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well as to ensure "operational consistency" amid several states passing laws requiring reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers.

Advocates, Attorneys React

Emily Martin, vice president and general counsel for the National Women's Law Center, said the new policy "undermines every argument that [UPS has] been making." She added that UPS officials "said they couldn't give pregnant workers like Peggy Young accommodations because of collective bargaining agreements, and because it would be unduly burdensome. Well, apparently that's not true anymore."

Sam Bagenstos, an attorney for Young, said, "UPS is highlighting the injustice of its own position. In the future, they want to give people like her fair treatment. But they're still denying her recompense for the unfair treatment that they gave her."

Separately, Cynthia Calvert, an attorney at Workforce 21C, said the Supreme Court ruling could still have a major effect on other companies that deny such accommodations. "There are many large companies that do not have pregnancy accommodations, or they're not in jurisdictions that require it," she said.

Meanwhile, advocates have indicated they will continue working to generate more support for the federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (S 942, HR 1975) if the Supreme Court rules against Young, according to "She The People" ("She The People," Washington Post, 10/29).