ACLU Stands Up for Pregnant Workers’ Rights at the Supreme Court

September 11, 2014

 

BALTIMORE - Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland (ACLU-MD) filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in Young v. United Parcel Service supporting the rights of pregnant women under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act to receive reasonable accommodations similar to those received by other workers with temporary disabilities. The national legal advocacy group A Better Balance also co-authored the brief, which was joined by several women's rights organizations.

 

"Courts around the country have allowed employers to leave pregnant workers high and dry, without the accommodations that other workers receive," said Lenora Lapidus, Director of the ACLU Women's Rights Project, "The Supreme Court should make clear that the Pregnancy Discrimination Act means what it says - if other workers get light duty, pregnant workers should too."

 

Peggy Young was pushed out of her job at UPS after she became pregnant. She fought back by bringing a lawsuit against her employer, claiming that UPS discriminated against her by refusing to give her a light duty rotation, even though UPS admitted that it routinely accommodates workers with similar needs such as those who have on-the-job injuries, those who lose their drivers' licenses, and those who are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

 

A growing number of states, including Maryland, have passed laws extending protections for pregnant workers against being pushed out of the workforce. The majority of American women will be pregnant at some point in their working life, and it makes no sense to allow employers to send pregnant workers packing, when employers can keep pregnant workers on the job using the same policies they already use to keep temporarily injured or disabled workers at work. 

 

While the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed in 1978 precisely to ensure that pregnant women were not subject to unlawful firings and other mistreatment, courts - like the Fourth Circuit federal court in Peggy Young's case - have been allowing employers to treat pregnant workers worse than other temporarily disabled workers.

 

In 2013, the ACLU took a lead role in helping to pass state legislation protecting pregnant workers in Maryland from discrimination by their employers.  The law now provides that if a pregnant employee asks for modest accommodations to maintain a healthy pregnancy, employers must provide those accommodations if employers already provide such accommodations to employees who have similar physical restrictions. 

 

"No woman should have to choose between her health or family and her job security," said Deborah Jeon, Legal Director for the ACLU of Maryland. "The Supreme Court now has the opportunity to extend real pro-family protections to women in every state."

 

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