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Columnist: Congress Must Ensure Accommodations for Pregnant Workers if Supreme Court Does Not

Columnist: Congress Must Ensure Accommodations for Pregnant Workers if Supreme Court Does Not

December 3, 2014 — Peggy Young's pregnancy discrimination case before the Supreme Court "sounds like a throwback to the 'Mad Men' era, when employers weren't expected -- or required -- to welcome women in general and pregnant women in particular," Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus writes.

Young was a driver for UPS in 2006 when she became pregnant and her doctor advised that she should not lift heavy packages during the pregnancy. Marcus notes that "[a]s a practical matter, this did not pose a problem" because "Young's route mostly involved letters and small packages" and a co-worker could help with heavier ones. However, "UPS not only refused to allow that, it also denied Young's request for transfer to temporary light duty, an accommodation routinely given to employees injured on the job, workers with disabilities, or those who are 'medically unqualified' to drive and therefore lose their commercial license,'" Marcus explains.

The high court heard arguments on the case Wednesday morning. Marcus argues that if "accommodating Peggy Young ... isn't the law, it ought to be" and that if Young "loses at the high court ... Congress should step in to provide the necessary protections, as it did with Lilly Ledbetter's employment discrimination case in 2009."

Marcus notes that "Young's situation reflects the reality, especially for lower-wage workers, that many companies continue to balk at reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees."

She points out that "[t]he case law is replete with jaw-dropping examples -- for instance, a fitting-room monitor refused permission to carry a water bottle despite medical advice to stay hydrated," adding that the need for improved legal protections is especially pressing for pregnant women "in blue-collar jobs" and as "growing numbers of women serv[e] as major breadwinners" for their families (Marcus, Washington Post, 12/2).