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US Supreme Court Will Review Important Case Affecting Pregnant Workers, Part II

On Monday, details about the case Young v. UPS were discussed. Young was a part-time UPS driver who, after becoming unable to lift heavy packages due to her pregnancy, was denied her request for light duty. She alleges that UPS violated the law by failing to provide her the same accommodations as it provided to nonpregnant employees with physical disabilities who were similar in their ability to work. After the District Court and Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals both found for UPS, Young petitioned filed a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court. UPS, however, responded to the petition with an argument that the 2008 amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) could render the case moot.  The actions that led to the suit occurred in 2006 – before the amendments to the ADA were made.

The regulations under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (“ADAAA”) broadens the definition of “disability” to include afflictions of limited duration, which could serve to make the issue raised in Young's challenge under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act irrelevant. According to UPS, "If courts construe the ADA (as amended) to cover pregnant workers subject to lifting restrictions like petitioner's, that statute, unlike the PDA, would expressly require accommodation.” That may be the case, but we will have to see how the Supreme Court weighs in, when it considers it later this later.

The Court’s decision to take the case is timely, as President Obama is calling on Congress to act on the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. Additionally, the EEOC has had its eye on pregnancy discrimination in the last couple of years. In 2012, the agency resolved a record number of pregnancy discrimination cases – recovering more than $14 million in settlements for victims. This is no surprise, as the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan for FY 2013-2016 cautioned that the commission would be ramping up its focus on pregnancy discrimination allegations.

If you are an employer and are presented with a request for accommodation by a pregnant worker, consider contacting counsel before acting for further information on federal and state laws. We will be following the Young v. UPS case and inform you of the Court’s ruling once an opinion is rendered.

Cindy Effinger

Cynthia L. Effinger is an Associate of  McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie & Kirkland, PLLC. Ms. Effinger’s practice is concentrated in the areas of employment law and commercial litigation. She also has experience with First Amendment litigation, securities litigation and complex litigation. Ms. Effinger can be reached at ceffinger@mmlk.com or at (502) 327-5400, ext. 316.

This article is intended as a summary of state and federal law and does not constitute legal advice.

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