In advance of the Supreme Court’s oral argument on a former employee’s pregnancy discrimination case (Young v. UPS, Inc., U.S. No. 12-1226), United Parcel Service (UPS) has announced that, effective, January 1, 2015, it will make light duty available to pregnant workers with lifting or other restrictions on the same level as it offers to employees who need light duty because of worker’s compensation injuries. In explaining this change in protocol, UPS announced it wanted to make light duty work available to more of its pregnant workforce who have restrictions to reflect the “pregnancy-specific laws” recently enacted in a number of states (Maryland is one such state) and the EEOC’s Enforcement Guidance issued on pregnancy discrimination in July 2014. UPS communicated this update in its Brief filed with the Supreme Court on October 24, 2014.
Despite this change designed to “strengthen UPS’s commitments to treating all workers fairly and supporting women in the workplace,” UPS still maintains, adamantly, that Ms. Young had no right under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) to an accommodation for her pregnancy-related lifting restriction. UPS denied her request to work light duty, which resulted in Ms. Young taking unpaid leave during her 2007 pregnancy. UPS notes that the policy which Ms. Young challenges is the very same policy that the United States Postal Service (the federal government) defends to this day. In this policy, light duty is available only to workers injured on the job but not to those with injuries or conditions incurred off the job. Many employers utilize this approach to ensure a clean cut and clear cut management of light duty, particularly in environments where meaningful light duty is a challenge to offer.
In this case, the Fourth Circuit held that UPS did not violate the PDA by adhering to its pregnancy-blind light duty policy that treats all workers the same who have off-the-job incurred temporary work restrictions. The Supreme Court is set to to hear oral argument on December 3, 2014.