Peggy Young’s request wasn’t outrageous.

The Maryland woman delivered packages for UPS. When she became pregnant, her doctor recommended that she avoid lifting more than 20 pounds.   Her deliveries were mostly letters and small packages, and another driver with the same route had already offered to deliver any heavy packages.

Since her employer had a history of making accommodations for other workers who needed them Ms. Young didn’t expect it to be a hassle. She was wrong.
UPS rejected her request because pregnancy was not an on-the-job injury the company was willing to accommodate.

Instead, Young was put on unpaid leave – unwelcome news to a woman preparing for the expenses that come with having a baby.  What she expected to be a simple, short-term accommodation  thus found its way to the Supreme Court this week, shedding a national spotlight on the importance of reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers.

This issue goes much further than Young and her employer.  Here in Illinois, the ACLU is fighting against pregnancy discrimination.  

Last summer, we stood proudly at Governor Pat Quinn's side while he signed legislation in Illinois requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations for women who are pregnant. These accommodations are often modest requests like  carrying a bottle of water or sitting on a stool instead of standing for a full shift.   We know that all too often, employers discriminate against pregnant women by denying these reasonable requests and forcing them to choose between their jobs and a health pregnancy.

Quinniya Hearn, for example, was a mental health counselor at Chicago’s Roseland Community Hospital.  She asked Roseland to accommodate her high-risk pregnancy by temporarily excusing her from restraining disorderly and combative patients.  The hospital was unwilling to do so and ultimately fired Hearn, even though, as Hearn alleges,  it granted the same accommodation to a  male security guard with an injury.  Pregnant women who can continue to work with just a reasonable accommodation should not be pushed out of their jobs. They shouldn’t have to put their safety or the health of their pregnancy at risk in order to continue to support their families.

Peggy Young didn’t ask for anything outrageous. It’s outrageous that she had to choose between her job and a healthy pregnancy.

If you have experienced pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, we want to hear about it. Share your story.