Supreme Court to Clarify Employers’ Duty to Provide Pregnancy Accommodations Under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act
Two days ago, the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal of a former United Parcel Service employee’s claim that the company violated the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) when it refused to provide accommodations for her lifting restrictions during her pregnancy, despite the fact that it provides accommodations to non-pregnant employees with similar restrictions. Young v. United Parcel Service Inc., Case No 12-1226, U.S. Supreme Court. The Fourth Circuit earlier upheld UPS’s motion for summary judgment, finding that UPS’s practice of providing light duty accommodations to workers injured on the job and disabled workers, but not to employees with pregnancy-related conditions, did not amount to discrimination under the PDA. Young v. UPS, 707 F.3d 437 (4th Cir. 2013).
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is also getting in on the act. As we noted here, the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan for 2013-2016 notes the agency’s priority of protecting the rights of pregnant workers to accommodations for pregnancy-related limitations under the ADA and the PDA. In addition, the Solicitor General filed an amicus brief in the Young case asking the Supreme Court to decline to take Young’s appeal (even though, in the EEOC’s view, the Fourth Circuit erred in upholding summary judgment for UPS) in light of the fact that the EEOC is currently working on “the adoption of new enforcement guidance on pregnancy discrimination that would address a range of issues related to pregnancy under the PDA and the ADA.”
The outcome of the Young decision and the EEOC impending guidance won’t impact California’s pregnant employees or their employers much—California law already requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnancy-related conditions, along with a host of other protections afforded to pregnant workers—including expanded pregnancy disability leave, baby bonding leave and the right to reinstatement after such leaves. However, both will hopefully provide some much-needed clarity for both employees and national employers regarding the rights of pregnant workers and employer obligations under federal law.