Are pregnant employees entitled to workplace accommodations under Title VII? Does it matter whether you offer light duty work to employees injured on the job? The Supreme Court has ruled on Young v. UPS and we still don’t know. Young v. UPS, Inc., No. 12-1226 (Mar. 25, 2015).
In this case, the pregnant employee had a medical restriction; she could not lift more than 20 lbs. Her job required her to lift 70 pounds. UPS told her she was not eligible for a light duty accommodation; UPS only offered light or alternative duty to employees injured on the job, to employees who lost their commercial drivers’ licenses, or as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act. She sued, and argued that, if an employer accommodates anyone with a 20 lb. lifting restriction, it also has to accommodate pregnant employees with that restriction. The Court said this gave pregnancy “most-favored-nation” status and rejected the argument. Ultimately, the Supreme Court held only that the employee might win a disparate treatment claim over even a pregnancy-neutral policy, if she could show the policy created an unjustified substantial burden on pregnant employees or if the neutral policy caused UPS to accommodate so many people that excluding pregnant employees demonstrated intentional discrimination. In short, if you make enough exceptions to your “no light duty” policy, you’ll have to give pregnant employees an exception too.