Workplace discrimination can take many forms. Many New Yorkers are familiar with the obvious cases of racial and gender discrimination, but other forms of employment discrimination occur frequently, including against pregnant women. One recent case of alleged pregnancy discrimination could send ripples throughout the country's workplaces and determine how much protection the federal 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act and state laws offer women in today's workforce.
When a UPS driver in Maryland became pregnant in 2006, her doctor advised her to lift nothing heavier than 20 pounds. The woman thus requested light duty from her supervisors at UPS but was told that all employees should be able to carry as much as 70 pounds as a condition of employment. Granting her request would amount to special treatment, according to UPS. She was forced to take unpaid leave and later filed a gender discrimination suit against UPS. As the case moved through the court system, lower courts consistently ruled in favor of UPS. Just recently, however, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on appeal, and the justices' expected decision next June could change laws throughout the country.
According to the woman's attorney, UPS had no right to force her client to choose between her job and following her doctor's orders. Because women can certainly work even though pregnant, an employer must accommodate their needs under the law. For its part, UPS has asserted that it broke no laws, but the company has already changed its guidelines regarding pregnant workers.
New York is one of several states that has enacted laws and policies that require the needs of pregnant employees to be accommodated. Disregard of the labor rights of employees can result in a strong case for the employees to pursue legal action. Employees who want to investigate this type of action should consult with employment law attorneys.
Source: CBS New York, "Supreme Court Justices Hear Pregnancy Discrimination Case," Dec. 4, 2014