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UPS wins pregnancy discrimination dispute

DiscriminationDecember 5, 2014

UPS wins pregnancy discrimination dispute (Last Updated On: December 5, 2014)

A woman in the United States working as a delivery driver was placed on leave without pay once she fell pregnant. The driver, Peggy Young, had been employed with UPS since 1999. This week Young’s case of discrimination was taken to Supreme Court where topics of pregnant workers, workers with injuries and workers with disabilities were reviewed.

In the US employees are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) this Act protects workers who have become ill or injured outside of work. Although becoming pregnant does not by any means suggests that women have a disability, Young was not reinstated into a role which she could have easily maintained whilst she was pregnant. Instead she was forced to take leave without pay.

Is your business doing enough to provide work for your staff members whilst they are pregnant? Are you required to provide work to staff who can not perform their usual tasks now that they are pregnant?

UPS won the case on the grounds that Young could not physically perform her task of being able to “lift, lower, push, pull, leverage and manipulate” packages up to 70 pounds, because she was pregnant.

Young worked part time picking up small packages from the airport and taking them to houses and businesses in the area before 8.30am. She then had a second job delivering flowers. She said her routine was considered to be light work. In her defence she said that most of the material delivered “were envelopes and lightweight packages, usually weighing no more than 20 lbs”. When Young fell pregnant she presented UPS with a note from her doctor that said “she shouldn’t lift more than 20 lbs during her pregnancy”. UPS did not reassign her into a job that they have given to other workers who were injured or with disabilities, instead she was put on leave without pay.

Young declared that she should have been protected under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act which states that pregnant women “shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes, including receipt of benefits under fringe benefit programs, as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work”. Young claimed that staff prior to her had been reinstated with modifications to their daily tasks due to illness or disability, she claimed that these modifications should have been made available to her so that she could continue to make an income whilst pregnant. Instead she lost all of her medical coverage.

Although Young’s case was strong UPS told Young that they “didn’t offer light duty to pregnant workers and that—given her 20 lb lifting restriction—she couldn’t continue as a driver”.

In order to protect your staff and ensure that both parties are fully aware of the obligations and entitlements of pregnancy and/or adoption, the following needs to be actioned by employers:

  • If your staff member or their spouse become pregnant or are notified of a match date for adoption, they must inform the employer at the earliest stage;
  • The period of maternity leave should be clearly outlined in employment handbooks, including the time periods of unpaid maternity leave;
  • Any restrictions to work should an employee become pregnant needs to be explained to an employee upon employment or in their employment contacts.

If you have any questions regarding maternity leave or the obligations and entitlements as an employer you can call Employsure. We can help to implement parental or maternity leave and we can also explain your responsibilities and entitlements once a staff member becomes pregnant. Call us today on 1300 651 415 or fill in the form below.

*Information sourced via Bloomberg Businessweek Politics and Policy website.

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