U.S. Supreme Court Rules on Pregnancy Discrimination

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion in Young v. UPS, in which it addressed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act’s requirement that employers treat pregnant employees the same way they treat other employees in the same job.  The Court held that an individual pregnant worker who seeks to show disparate treatment may make out a prima facie case by showing that: she belongs to the protected class; she sought accommodation; the employer did not accommodate her; and the employer did accommodate others “similar in their ability or inability to work.” The employer can respond with legitimate nondiscriminatory reasons for denying accommodation which the employee may then rebut by showing the stated reason is pretextual.  The Court then held that the plaintiff created a genuine issue of fact as to whether UPS provided more favorable treatment to at least some employees whose situation cannot reasonably be distinguished from hers.

As a practical matter, based on the Court’s decision, employers should tread very carefully when applying “light duty” policies and should not restrict light duty positions to employees with work-related injuries.

The decision is here:  http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/12-1226_k5fl.pdf

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