Women’s reproductive rights have been headline news this year. Large corporations such as Wal-Mart and UPS have been thrust into the spotlight regarding their handling of employees who were pregnant or trying to get pregnant.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien states that, “Pregnancy is not a justification for excluding women from jobs that they are qualified to perform, and it cannot be a basis for denying employment of treating women less favorably than co-workers similar in their ability or inability to work.”
The Pregnancy Disability Act (PDA) not only covers current pregnancy, but discrimination based on past pregnancy and a woman’s potential to become pregnant as well.
In the UPS case, the question is whether pregnant women are entitled to “reasonable accommodations” in the workplace. Former UPS employee, Peggy Young, filed the suit claiming such accommodations were not made by UPS and that they were in violation of the PDA. The court dismissed Young’s case without trial, but she pursued it through the system, and it is now in front of the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court must now decide if, and in what circumstances, the PDA requires a company to provide some employees with work accommodations but not others, such as pregnant women. USA Today reported that UPS claims that Young’s pregnancy did not meet any of the company’s criteria for an accommodation:
- She did not suffer an on-the-job injury.
- She did not suffer a loss of federal certification to drive.
- She did not have a disability recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
UPS argued that people with other health conditions that do not fall into these categories would have been treated the same as Young, so there is no legitimate claim of discrimination. Young countered by saying that she isn’t any different from UPS drivers who were given accommodations to recover after a stroke or who temporarily lost their driver’s licenses. Her “condition” was temporary, just like theirs.
Interestingly, now that the case is with the Supreme Court, UPS has changed its policy to accommodate pregnant workers. An article on NPR.com says that nine states have now adopted laws mandating pregnancy accommodations. Additionally, the article suggests that Congress’ 2008 amendment to the ADA that requires accommodation of temporary disabilities also sparked UPS’ policy change. “The federal government has interpreted that coverage to include accommodations for pregnancy,” the article states.
The takeaway for business owners is to treat employees equally. The government puts standards in place to protect your company and your employees that should be reflected in your human resource policies.