We recently reported that the fight to let pregnant workers come to work has finally reached the Supreme Court.
On December 3, the court will hear the case of Peggy Young, a United Parcel Service (UPS) package driver who was forced off the job while she was pregnant, when she requested a temporary light-duty position. The case has important implications for millions of women, including our client Julie Desantis-Mayer, another UPS driver who was pushed out of the workplace after she requested light-duty work on the advice of her doctor.
UPS's consistent practice has been to deny such requests when they come from pregnant women, even though it regularly grants light-duty assignments to workers who are injured on the job and to workers with disabilities.
On Friday, UPS filed a brief with the Supreme Court announcing an about-face in policy.
Going forward, the company said, it will "provide pregnant women the same accommodations as other employees with similar physical restrictions resulting from on-the-job activities." Yes, you read that right – UPS now promises to give pregnant workers the equal treatment they have been demanding all along.
This is a surprising and welcome change.
Essentially, UPS is conceding the argument that treating pregnant workers as well as other workers makes good business sense – even as the company continues to deny that the law requires such equality of treatment. And it still refuses to give back pay to women like Peggy and Julie who were forced off the job in the past.
Still, this is a welcome development – and one that reinforces an argument that a number of business leaders made to the Supreme Court in a friend-of-the-court brief: Treating pregnant workers equally is not only good policy, it's a good business practice.
Women like Peggy Young and Julie Desantis-Mayer should not have to go to court, much less the Supreme Court, to fight for their basic right to go to work and earn a living without putting their pregnancies at risk. In the past year, a number of states have taken action, passing Pregnant Worker Fairness laws to clarify that employers must provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers. A similar bill, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, is gathering steam in Congress.
On December 3, the Supreme Court has the opportunity make clear once and for all that our civil rights laws require what UPS has already admitted is good business policy: equal treatment for pregnant workers.