Interpreting the Pregnancy Discrimination Act
Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in the case of Young v. United Parcel Service, 134 S.Ct.2898 (U.S. 2014). The issue before the Supreme Court concerns whether an employer is obligated under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act () to provide a pregnant employee the same types of accommodations (such as light duty) that it provides to non-pregnant employees who are able to work. In the Young case, the plaintiff’s employer, UPS, had traditionally provided light duty as an accommodation for employees who had suffered non-work related injuries or who were disabled. The plaintiff is arguing that she is entitled to the same benefit on account of her pregnancy. We agree, and hope that the Supreme Court properly finds that the Pregnancy Discrimination Act forbids an employer from defining pregnancy as a special category of limitation that is treated differently and worse than all other types of limitations that UPS’s light duty policy protects.
On a broader scale, this case reflects the lack of legal support women face when attempting to balance a career and start a family. The United States remains the only major developed nation without paid maternity leave — lagging far behind economic powers like Germany, which offers 14 weeks of paid leave to either parent. It is well established that one of the greatest difficulties women face in the workplace is the qualitative and quantitative career setbacks they suffer as a result of the consuming realities of starting a family. Without more progressive policies, workplace gender inequality will continue to persist.