This Supreme Court Case Will Decide Whether Companies Can Treat Pregnant Women Like Crap

woman-358779_640.jpgReproductive choices are a damned if you do damned if you don't situation. Motherhood is seen as a societal expectation that all women aspire for, and is treated as a coveted status in our popular culture. Real life on the other hand is a different story, especially for the working woman. Employers actively justify lower pay and fewer promotions for women under the logic, "They'll just get pregnant and leave". For women who are pregnant and on the job, it's a struggle to assure that health and comfort are accommodated, especially for workers in the service industry. 

Stephanie Mencimer's article in Mother Jones titled "This Supreme Court Case Will Decide Whether Companies Can Treat Pregnant Women Like Crap" looks into the history of workplace pregnancy discrimination, and the upcoming Supreme Court case filed by Peggy Young, who in 2008 was forced on over six months of unpaid leave by her employer UPS because she was pregnant. All requests for department changes that would accommodate her inability to do heavy lifting went ignored, as her pregnancy was classified as an "out of work injury". Mencimer also noted that this is a rare case where advocates from both sides of the abortion debate are agreeing on something, that the working world makes the choice to carry pregnancies a challenge to health and personal freedom of choice.

Some of you may remember that the ninth point of the still to be passed Women's Equality Act is a bill to end pregnancy discrimination. This bill would include relief from heavy lifting, more bathroom breaks, stools to sit on when needed, etc. as protected accommodations. Such accommodations ensure the comfort and safety of both mother and child. As illustrated in the article, current laws have been twisted and used against women under the line "you're being treated like everybody else, and your accommodations would discriminate against men".

The biggest concern with Young's case is that SCOTUS will rule in favor of UPS. Recent history has shown that many of their decisions have ruled in favor against women, including the recent Hobby Lobby ruling, ruling against Lily Ledbetter, and ruling in favor of clinic protesters.

We are still fighting to get the Women's Equality Act passed in New York State, and we need your help to do it! Visit our WEA site to learn more and sign up!


 

It's a rare day when pro-choice activists, anti-abortion diehards, and evangelical Christians all file briefs on the same side of a Supreme Court case. But that's what happened recently when the National Association of Evangelicals, Americans United for Life, Democrats for Life of America, and the National Women's Law Center joined forces to support Peggy Young, a Maryland woman alleging that she was the victim of pregnancy discrimination.

Young was a driver for the shipping giant UPS, where she'd worked for about seven years. In 2006, she took some time off to undergo in vitro fertilization in the hopes of getting pregnant. She succeeded and eventually went back to work, where an occupational health manager told her she had to submit a doctor's note about work restrictions. She provided a midwife recommendation that she not lift more than 20 pounds while pregnant.

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UPS then declared her unable to perform her job. Young says in legal filings that a manager told her she was too much of a liability for the company and that she could not come back into the building where she worked until she was no longer pregnant. She countered that while her job description technically required her to lift up to 70 pounds, her position as an "air driver" meant that she mostly delivered much lighter envelopes. UPS nonetheless refused her requests to remain in her job or move to temporary light duty.

The company allowed other employees to take on light duty assignments following work-related injuries or to comply the Americans with Disabilities Act. It even permitted them to move into other jobs if they lost their commercial drivers' licenses due to a drunk driving conviction. But UPS told Young that it didn't have to accommodate her pregnancy and forced her to take unpaid leave for the last six and a half months of her pregnancy. As a result, she lost her health insurance and other benefits—at a time when she'd never needed them more.

In 2008, Young sued UPS in federal court, arguing that by refusing her request for a