Pregnancy Should Be Defined as a ‘Disability’ in Young v. UPS Case

The United States Supreme Court will hear a case on Wednesday, December 3, that could affect the rights of pregnant, working mothers across the nation. The Young v. United Parcel Service case has already gone through two lower courts, after Peggy Young was placed on unpaid leave from the shipping company for six months after becoming pregnant in 2006.


Wait -- didn't the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978 demand that pregnant women not be discriminated against in the workplace? Sure, we may have swollen ankles, but usually ladies with child are able to perform their normal work tasks without complication.

According to US News & World Report, "The legislation amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act so that it required that employers treat pregnant women the same way that they treat non-pregnant employees with similar abilities or disabilities."

More from The Stir: Pregnancy Discrimination at Work in 2012 Is Mind-Baffling

OK, so then what happened? Peggy Young was a part time  "air driver" for UPS, which required her to work with mainly letters and small packages, but technically could require her to lift up to 70 pounds. When she became pregnant, her midwife recommended that she lift no more than 20 pounds, a common recommendation for pregnant women.

She informed a manager, but was told she didn't qualify for the company's "light duty" accommodation -- a temporary adjustment to an employee's workload often involving clerical work. Instead, she was put on unpaid leave for six months, and subsequently lost her health insurance.

Reportedly, UPS has offered such accommodation to "those with on-the-job injuries, those covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act and those who lost Transportation Department certification because of legal issues."

Um, legal issues like a revoked licence, maybe from a DUI or multiple citations for unsafe driving? That will get you a desk job, but pregnancy won't? That makes no sense.

Young has tremendous support from a vast variety of groups. Heck, even anti-abortion organizations and pro-choice groups agree that this is blatant discrimination against a pregnant woman.

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"The case is very significant because pregnant women should never have to choose between their job and their pregnancy, and here that is exactly what UPS forced Peggy Young to do," says Lenora Lapidus, director of Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union.

It may be worth nothing that this staunch pro-life conservative agrees with the ACLU on this one. So does Clarke Forsythe, senior counsel for American United for Life, who said, "Not enough has been done to respect the choice of life."

UPS officially changed their policy in October so that "pregnant women would be eligible for light duty assignments," but will defend their old policy in court.

"We did not choose to bring this case to the Supreme Court, Peggy Young did, and we will continue to argue our position," noted UPS spokeswoman Kara Ross in an e-mailed statement. She continued, "UPS is actually ahead of many companies and government agencies, including the U.S. Postal Service, in changing its policy to accommodate pregnant workers with special work assignments," noting that at the time of Young's pregnancy, only one state required special workplace accommodations for pregnant women. As of today, only seven more states have followed suit.

If Young wins her case, she won't be rewarded the lost wages and benefits she initially sued for, but she'd be sent back to a trial court with a jury. It would, however, give the courts and employers going forward more guidance as to how to handle such issues going forward.

This seems like a pretty straightforward, commonsense issue to me. This isn't a pregnant woman who wanted unlimited time off work, paid leave, or other special treatment. She merely wanted the same rights anyone else would be granted with a temporary disability.

That doesn't seem like too much to ask.

Do you think pregnancy should be defined as a temporary disability in order to prevent workplace discrimination?


Image via J.K. Califf/Flickr

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