A win for workers in the Supreme Court

In a positive decision for workers, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a case back to the district court to decide the issue of whether United Parcel Service offered reasonable accommodation to some employees, but refused to provide the same accommodation to a pregnant woman.

The woman became pregnant in 2006 and was advised that she should not lift more than 20 pounds during the remainder of her pregnancy. UPS refused to allow her to take on light duty lifting and she sued. The trial and appeals court decisions supported UPS and she appealed to the Supreme Court.

The majority opinion noted that there was a “dispute” whether UPS offered accommodations to some workers who were in “situation cannot reasonably be distinguished” from that of the pregnant woman.

Of course, she now has to return to the lower court to determine if there was discrimination based on her pregnancy, but this does provide her a day in court to make her arguments.

If she can show that UPS offered accommodation to a temporarily injured worker who had a lifting restriction, but refused to allow her the same temporary restriction, she could prevail in the lower court.

The specific effect of this case may be overshadowed by a change in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which should now cover pregnant in these types of situations, but that law was not enacted until 2008.

The positive element of the decision is that it prevents the employer from summarily dismissing the allegation at an early stage of the litigation. Any ruling that makes it more difficult to employers to easily stop discrimination lawsuits are helpful for all workers by making it more expensive for employers to engage in discrimination.

Reuters.com, “U.S. Supreme Court revives pregnant worker’s case against UPS,” Lawrence Hurley, March 25, 2015

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