The Employer's Legal Resource: Update-Supreme Court Rules on Accommodations Under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act
In the October 2014 ELR, we told you about Peggy Young who worked for UPS as a part-time air driver. She sued UPS claiming it should have accommodated her temporary work restrictions due to her pregnancy. When it did not, she was forced to take an extended unpaid leave during which she lost her medical coverage.
UPS argued it had a gender neutral policy of providing accommodations only in cases where an employee was injured on the job, had a permanent disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, or lost DOT eligibility. Under that theory, UPS won on summary judgment, but Young continued to appeal. Her claim was ultimately heard by the United States Supreme Court who issued its much-awaited decision on March 25.
The Supreme Court reversed UPS's win and remanded the case for further proceedings.
The decision holds that, in essence, employers cannot escape liability for failing to accommodate pregnancy-related work restrictions with gender-neutral or pregnancy-neutral policies. Like so many other employment-related laws, the question will be very fact-specific. Is there a basis to believe discrimination was in play? Was the failure to provide an accommodation motivated by pregnancy? What types of things motivated the decision not to provide the accommodation? What factors went into the decision to provide accommodations to other temporary medical conditions? In other words, the court (and in many cases, a jury) will weigh the totality of the circumstances.
While employers would love easy answers, the Supreme Court just handed you another "case-by-case" situation.
This is one of the topics at our upcoming 2015 Employer's Workshop. We will be discussing this case and the Pregnancy Discrimination Guidance the EEOC issued in July 2014 as you begin to manage this new frontier.
By Kristen L. Brightmire, email@example.com