In Young v. UPS, the United States Supreme Court reinstated a UPS worker’s pregnancy discrimination lawsuit under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, finding that both the District Court and the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit had applied the wrong standard in upholding UPS’s light-duty-for-injury policy, under which the company refused a light-duty accommodation to a pregnant employee back in 2006. While the Court did not determine whether the employee suffered any actual discrimination, or whether UPS’s policy was impermissible under the PDA – those issues were remanded to the Fourth Circuit – the Court did adopt a modified version of the familiar burden-shifting framework of McDonnell Douglas for analyzing pregnancy discrimination claims under the PDA. The Court’s decision in Young is also noteworthy in that it declined to give deference to the EEOC’s July 2014 guidance on pregnancy discrimination, which we have previously discussed, and, in fact, rejected the argument that the PDA creates “an unconditional favored nations status” for pregnant workers.
Peggy Young worked as a part-time driver for UPS, and her job duties included picking up and delivering packages. In 2006, Young became pregnant and her doctor told her that she should not lift more than 20 pounds during the first 20 weeks of her pregnancy or more than 10 pounds thereafter. UPS, however, required its drivers to lift packages weighing up to 70 pounds (and up to 150 pounds with assistance). After informing UPS of her lifting restriction, Young sought a transfer to a “light-duty” position pursuant to UPS’ light-duty-for-injury policy, which limited such assignments to employees who (1) had been injured on the job; (2) had lost their U.S. Department of Transportation certification; or (3) were disabled under the ADA. As Young did not qualify for a light-duty assignment for any of these reasons, she was forced to stay home without pay and eventually lost her employee medical coverage.