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EPLI: Pregnancy Discrimination Case Heads to the Supreme Court


EPLI Pregnancy Discrimination Case Heads to the Supreme CourtEmployment Practice Issue to be Reviewed this Week

Back in August we wrote about the case in which a pregnant woman working at UPS sued the shipping company claiming that it had violated the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act. UPS stated that neither the Pregnancy Discrimination Act nor the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applied to her and won in federal court and on appeal. The U.S. Supreme Court is now set to hear her case.

The Backstory on the UPS Case

Peggy Young was employed by UPS, delivering envelopes and small packages during the morning shift. Her doctor recommended that she avoid lifting anything heavy once she got pregnant. UPS responded by placing her on unpaid leave. Ms. Young lost her health benefits, pension, disability benefits and wages for seven months. She sued the company and lost. Now the Supreme Court will hear her case this Wednesday.

The Supreme Court’s decision has the potential to affect the lives of millions of women, who make up 47% of the labor force and often work during and late into their pregnancies. According to the Census Bureau, an estimated 62% of women who had given birth in the previous year were in the labor force. Moreover, women are the sole or primary breadwinners in 40% of American families with children, according to a Pew Research Center study.

Beginning in January, UPS is changing its policy to offer light duty to pregnant women. “The new policy will strengthen UPS’s commitment to treating all workers fairly and supporting women in the workplace,” said Kara Ross, a spokeswoman for the company. The case before the Supreme Court, Ross said, “is really about what the UPS policy was then.” The old policy, she said, “was lawful and consistently applied to our workers.”

UPS told the justices that it had no legal obligation to make the kinds of accommodations it recently announced. The lower courts in Ms. Young’s case agreed, with a unanimous three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Virginia, saying the pregnancy law does not give pregnant women “a ‘most favored nation’ status.”

The EEOC on Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), pregnancy discrimination involves treating a woman (an applicant or employee) unfavorably because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth. Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) in 1978 as an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The PDA makes discrimination against women who are pregnant unlawful and requires employers with more than 15 employees to treat pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions in same way they would treat other employees with temporary disabilities. All aspects of employment are protected under the PDA including: hiring, terminations, salary, promotions, layoffs, benefits, job assignments, training and any other term or condition of employment.

But the laws are complicated and can be confusing and at times contradictory. For example, in certain circumstances pregnancy-related medical conditions may have overlapping safeguards provided under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The complex relationship between these laws could result in an employer’s unintended exposure to a discrimination suit. It’s imperative then for employers to actively assess their protocols and educate themselves in order to protect the organization against exposure. Also important is having Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) in place in the event of a workplace lawsuit, including issues revolving discrimination.

Axis Insurance Services specializes in Employment Practices insurance and can review your company’s policies and procedures and help you secure the coverage you need to protect your firm. Give us a call at (877) 787-5258.

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Blogged on: December 2, 2014 by Mike Smith
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