Mark Knoth writes article "Supreme Court Signals Pregnant Employee Accommodation May Be Required"
In a 6-3 decision issued today (3-23-2015), the US Supreme Court revived a pregnant United Parcel Service (“UPS”) employee’s pregnancy discrimination claim alleging that UPS failed to accommodate her work limitations while pregnant. The case involved a UPS employee whose doctor advised her that she should not lift more than 20 pounds due to her pregnancy. UPS, which requires its drivers be able to lift 70 pounds, told the pregnant employee that she could not work while under a lifting restriction. The employee filed lawsuit claiming that UPS acted unlawfully in refusing to accommodate her lifting restriction under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
The Supreme Court decision sends this case case back to the trial court to consider why UPS failed to offer the pregnant employee a light-duty assignment when it awards temporary assignments to non-pregnant employees. Although the Supreme Court did not base its ruling on the recently issued EEOC Pregnancy Guidelines which deal with the pregnancy accommodation issue, the Court’s decision appears to be at least a partial endorsement of those Guidelines.
More study is necessary, however, it appears that this ruling signals a significant shift in the manner in which employers are required to address pregnant employee work restrictions and pregnant employees in general.