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Supreme Court rules on pregnancy discrimination case

In a decision that could have a significant impact on employees in Wisconsin and around the country, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on March 25 that a worker who claimed that she had been the victim of discrimination by her employer on account of her pregnancy was entitled to have her case reheard. In its 6-3 decision remanding the case to the lower court for retrial, the court indicated that the plaintiff should have another opportunity to demonstrate that the actions of her employer were in violation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

The case centered around the actions of the plaintiff's employer, United Parcel Service, when the plaintiff became pregnant in 2006. On the advice and recommendation of her doctor that she not lift heavy packages, the plaintiff requested a modification of her delivery job to encompass lighter duty as an accommodation to her condition. Her supervisors refused her request, stating that while UPS had provided similar accommodations to other classes of workers, including those who had a condition that was within the scope of the Americans With Disabilities Act or who had been injured on the job, pregnancy was not within the scope of the company's policy. She subsequently went on unpaid leave and later sued UPS in federal court after filing a workplace discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The case ended up being heard by the Supreme Court after the case had been decided against the plaintiff at trial as well as on a subsequent appeal. Writing for the majority, Justice Stephen Breyer indicated that the plaintiff should have another chance to show that the policy of UPS to allow accommodations to certain classes of workers but not others was discriminatory.

While UPS has since changed its policy and now allows pregnant workers to seek and obtain lighter duty, the case may have ramifications for employees of other companies facing similar situations. An employment law attorney can provide counsel and guidance to those who feel that they have been unfairly treated due to a protected condition.

Source: Washington Post, "Justices revive case claiming UPS discriminated against pregnant worker", Robert Barnes and Brigid Schulte, March 25, 2015

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