The United States Supreme Court today reinstated the pregnancy-discrimination lawsuit of former driver Peggy Young, who was fired because she could not perform all the duties of a driver while pregnant. The lawsuit arose because UPS would not allow pregnant female drivers to remain employed once their pregnancy limited their work. But it allowed other drivers with non-pregnancy-related limitations to remain employed, and would even bend the work rules to allow them to stay with the company.
According to a United Parcel Service, Inc. (UPS) policy, the essential functions for all drivers included the ability to lift packages weighing up to 70 pounds. UPS allowed several exceptions – just not for pregnant drivers. It allowed drivers to avoid the lifting requirement if the driver (a) was injured on the job, (b) suffered from a permanent disability or (c) had lost their certification by the U.S. Department of Transportation. This third group would actually be offered an inside job so they could stay employed.
Not so for Peggy Young. Ms. Young, who became pregnant in her fourth year as a Annapolis, Maryland-based driver for UPS, lost her job because she couldn’t lift packages during a portion of her pregnancy. Under UPS policy, a pregnant employee could continue working as long as she could perform the essential functions of her job. However, she was subject to firing if she could not do her job because of her pregnancy.
Today’s ruling is a huge victory for women in the workplace.
But but it’s also a shameful reminder how far we still have to go as a society. Why would UPS do this? Why did it take the highest court in the land to wake UPS up? Much of my practice involves pregnancy discrimination claims. Women who are pregnant still face shocking discrimination in the hiring process, on the job, and following the return to work after giving birth.
This wakeup call is long overdue. I hope UPS takes the initiative and settles this case immediately. If it doesn’t, a jury will surely teach it another, much more costly lesson about discrimination.
The case is Peggy Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc., 2015 WL 1310745 (2015). The full opinion can be found here.
Peggy Young and her daughter, right here.