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eTrends - Fourth Circuit Holds Preferential Treatment Not Required for Pregnant Employees

01.31.2013

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recently confirmed that the Pregnancy Discrimination Act does not require employers to provide preferential treatment to pregnant employees. In the case of Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc., No. 11-2078 (4th Cir. Jan. 9, 2013), Ms. Young, a former UPS delivery truck driver, claimed that the company violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by refusing to allow her to continue working during her pregnancy by accommodating her restrictions on heavy lifting. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act added pregnancy-related discrimination to Title VII's general prohibition on sex discrimination, and requires employers to treat pregnant employees the same as they would treat non-pregnant employees with a similar ability to work.

Ms. Young's job with UPS required that she lift and move large packages as an essential function of her job. Under a UPS policy in place at the time, light duty assignments were offered to employees with on-the-job injuries, employees disabled under the ADA, and employees who had lost DOT certification, but employees unable to perform their job duties due to pregnancy were not eligible for light duty assignments. UPS refused to give Ms. Young a light duty assignment during her pregnancy. In a unanimous decision, the Fourth Circuit held that Ms. Young did not have a disability as defined by the ADA and that UPS did not violate the Pregnancy Discrimination Act when it refused to allow her to continue working by performing light duty assignments as it did with disabled employees and employees injured on the job. The court reasoned that because UPS's policy treated pregnant workers and non-pregnant workers alike, the company had complied with the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is expected to increase its focus on pregnancy discrimination with an emphasis on accommodations. Indeed, the EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan for 2013-2016 specifies accommodating pregnancy-related limitations under the ADAAA and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act as one of its top-priority issues. Thus, employers would be well-advised to review their policies and procedures applicable to pregnant employees.

The Young v. UPS decision can be found here.

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Smith Anderson publishes eTrends periodically as a service to clients and friends. The purpose of this eTrends is to provide general information about a significant legal development in the field of employment law. Readers should be aware that the facts may vary from one situation to another, so the conclusions stated herein may not be applicable to the reader’s particular circumstances.

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