Workplace discrimination is sadly still alive and well in the U.S. and one of the more fertile grounds for discrimination is that resulting from pregnancy. Some apparently still question why women would want to work outside the home and seem to believe that discrimination against pregnant women is not really discrimination.
In the recent U.S. Supreme Court case of Young, a pregnant woman who worked at UPS asked for a light duty accommodation on the advice of her doctor. UPS refused any accommodation, and claimed pregnancy was not a valid ground for an accommodation. The Court ruled that this policy, even if it was not specifically directed at pregnant women, created a question of fact and she could argue it unfairly burdened pregnant woman and if proved, it would be unlawful discrimination.
The updated guidance from the EEOC cites to Young and provides an example based on facts similar to Young. In the example, if a pregnant woman asks for a light duty accommodation, and the employer refuses, and she can show that the employer allows other workers with lifting restrictions to perform light duty work, she will have satisfied the basic or prima facia requirements for a case of discrimination.
Even if the employer provides a non-discriminatory reason for the differing treatment of pregnant women, the woman may still be able to show discrimination if a significant number of other workers with lifting restrictions are accommodated with light duty work, while a significant number of pregnant women are not granted similar accommodation.
This is a very important element, because this becomes a question of material fact and cannot be quickly dismissed by summary judgment. This allows the woman and her attorney to gather evidence of the discriminatory practice, and prevents the employer from winning an easy dismissal of the case.
Source: eeoc.gov, “EEOC Issues Updated Pregnancy Discrimination Guidance,” June 25, 2015