Pregnancy Accommodations at Work – What Must Your Employer Do?

It’s Harder Than Ever for Employers to Deny Reasonable Accommodations

If you’re experiencing a pregnancy related health condition your doctor may advise you to make changes to your work schedule and duties. If you know that you need or want to keep working you may be wondering what your boss is going to say when you ask for accommodations.

Maybe you have heard that coworkers injured on the job with health limitations similar to yours have been given accommodations. But does your pregnancy-related condition count as a disability? Will your employer work with you to keep you on the job? What rights do you have?

Whether you’ll need more restroom breaks, time off to see your specialist, a reduction in hours, or assistance with completing certain nonessential parts of your job, you may be protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and New York law. Under the law, an employer generally must provide accommodations to pregnant employees who are experiencing pregnancy-related conditions if the employer provides accommodations to other employees who are “similar in ability or inability to work.”

Young v. UPS: Employers Need Legitimate, Nondiscriminatory Reasons to Deny Accommodations to Pregnant Employees if They are Providing Such Accommodations to Other Workers

Peggy Young was a part-time delivery truck driver for UPS.  According to UPS, one of her job’s essential duties was to carry up to 70 pounds. After she became pregnant her doctor restricted her to carrying 20 pounds or less for the first 20 weeks of her pregnancy and 10 pounds or less for the remainder. She sought an accommodation from her employer to switch to light duty work.

UPS regularly provided light-duty assignments to employees who were unable to lift 70 pounds because of a temporary condition. Young’s coworkers also offered to help her out when needed. The UPS policy in place at the time of Young’s employment provided accommodations to individuals who were injured on the job or who are disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but excluded pregnant employees.

UPS denied Young’s request for light duty and her request to return to work since they said that she could not perform one of the essential functions of her job.  She was placed on unpaid leave and subsequently lost medical coverage.  Thereafter, she sued and part of her case went to the United States Supreme Court.

How Pregnant Workers Benefit

The Supreme Court held that the burden is on the employer to show a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for denying pregnant employees accommodations that it provides to other employees.  Saying that it is more expensive or less convenient to provide accommodations to pregnant women is not a “legitimate” reason.

Now, a company like UPS that already accommodates a large percentage of non-pregnant employees will have a hard time proving that it has a legitimate reason for excluding pregnant employees like Young from coverage. Employers will have to provide pregnant employees with accommodations more often.

Are You Being Denied Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnancy-Related Matters?

If you have questions or concerns about your workplace rights, please call our firm for a free and confidential consultation. For more information on your rights in the workplace, download my free book, Guide to Pregnancy Discrimination.