The US Supreme Court heard arguments in the Young v. United Parcel Service case this morning, brought by Peggy Young who faced pregnancy discrimination during her employment as a UPS delivery driver. Young’s case was bolstered by a rally held outside the Supreme Court during the hearing.
When Young discovered that she was pregnant, UPS denied her doctor-recommended request for light duty assignment and forced to take unpaid medical leave without health insurance, despite UPS granting similar requests for other employees with disabilities or injuries. Young sued on the grounds of pregnancy discrimination, but two lower courts ruled against her.
Early this morning, advocates and activists gathered outside the Supreme Court from feminist groups including the Feminist Majority Foundation, National Women’s Law Center, Moms Rising, and the National Organization for Women to show support for Young. A virtual rally is also ongoing today using the hashtag #StandWithPeggy.
It has been almost four decades since the passing of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, protecting employees from discrimination if they become pregnant. The law is unclear, however, how far that protection goes and what sort of accommodations are required for pregnant women in the workplace. Although UPS has since changed their policy, this Supreme Court ruling could ensure additional protection under the law for all working pregnant women in the United States.
Accommodations such as more frequent bathroom breaks, lighter physical workplace tasks, and access to water and chairs while at work are some of the things Young and advocates for pregnant worker’s rights are hoping for. They argue that if a group of workers on payroll are allotted lighter duty or assignments such as desk work because of temporary disabilities, the same opportunity should be available to pregnant workers whose doctors recommend limits to their workload. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which has been stalled in both chambers of Congress since last year, would require every employer in the nation to provide these accommodations to their employees.
The opposition argues that pregnancy is not a disability and should not be treated as such.
For Young, this case is about more than seeking justice in her particular situation. “I have two daughters,” she says, “I don’t ever want them to experience what I did. We need to fix this. For them, and for all women.”
The Supreme Court decision will be announced next summer.
Media Resources: SCOTUS Blog Young v. United Parcel Service; Feminist Newswire 7/3/2014; Washington Post 11/30/2014