U.S. Supreme Court Protects Pregnant Workers’ Rights

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Court’s ruling allows Peggy Young to continue discrimination case against former employer UPS
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(PRESS RELEASE) Today the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Peggy Young, a former employee of the United Parcel Service (UPS), will be able to continue her case against the company for discriminating against her by refusing to accommodate her doctor’s orders that she avoid heavy lifting while pregnant—forcing her to take unpaid leave and lose her health benefits at the time she needed them most.

Today’s 6-3 decision vacates and remands Peggy Young v. United Parcel Service back to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

Young argues she was denied the same light duty accommodations the company offered to other individuals—such as those with disabilities, on-the-job injuries, and even those who lost their driving privileges from DUI charges—in violation of the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978.

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“Today the U.S. Supreme Court has rightfully sided with Peggy Young, ensuring the rights of pregnant women cannot simply be cast aside by their employers.

“No pregnant woman should be forced to choose between keeping her job and what’s best for her health. We commend Peggy Young for her courage to stand up for her rights and the rights of millions of workers across the U.S.”

In writing for the majority, Justice Stephen Breyer noted “there is a genuine dispute as to whether UPS provided more favorable treatment to at least some employees whose situation cannot reasonably be distinguished from Young’s.” Breyer was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. Justice Samuel Alito wrote a concurring opinion.

Members of Congress plan to reintroduce the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), a bill that would provide additional protections for pregnant workers by preventing employers from forcing pregnant women out of the workplace and helping ensure that employers provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant women who want to continue working and provide for their families.

The Center for Reproductive Rights opposes any discrimination against pregnant women and fights for the human rights of, and safe maternal health care for, women in the U.S. and around the globe. In recent years the Center has advocated for fair treatment of pregnant immigrant women in U.S. detention centers, exposed severe disparities Black women face when seeking quality maternal health care in the South, and fought for justice on behalf of women in Latin America and Africa who have received unfair and discriminatory treatment when accessing pregnancy care.