16 Jun Pregnancy Discrimination
In Young v. UPS, the Court considered the proper scope of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (“PDA”). The second clause states that employers shall treat pregnant employees the same as those “not so affected” but “similar in their ability or inability to work.” Young argued that UPS’s policy, which permitted light-duty accommodations to workers who were injured on the job, who were covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, or who lost their DOT certification, violated this clause because it did not allow the same accommodation for her.
The Court rejected Young’s claim that she was entitled to the same accommodations provided to any other similarly restricted workers, but also rejected UPS’s argument that all “pregnancy-blind” policies were valid. It ruled that second-clause claims should be handled under McDonnell Douglas in which courts examine employers’ actions for evidence of discrimination. By pointing to a policy that provided accommodations to some similarly restricted workers, but not to pregnant women, Young had satisfied the prima facie case of discrimination. The burden now falls on UPS—at trial on remand—to articulate a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for its refusal to accommodate Young’s pregnancy-based lifting restriction. And when it attempts to do so, it cannot use cost or convenience as an excuse. At the final stage, the fact finder must decide whether the employer’s reasons are sufficient given the burden on pregnant women in that workforce. If not, the imbalance can give rise to an inference of intentional discrimination—and a violation of the PDA.