NEWS/BLOG

Current news at our Firm and reports from the

front line on breaking news for employees.

We update you on current issues in our field

and explain how they affect your legal rights

in the workplace. Whether it's a new statute

a new court decision, an election or tips on

how to protect yourself at work, read about it

here and learn how to take action.

focused
Employment
rights advocacy for
executives, managers
and professionals

Practice Areas

Supreme Court speaks on Pregnancy Discrimination Act March 25, 2015

Supreme Court Pregnancy Discrimination

Today the Supreme Court issued a fractured opinion announcing new law on the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The Act provides that “women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes . . . as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work . . . .” Five members of the Court held that “a plaintiff alleging that the denial of an accommodation constituted disparate treatment under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act’s second clause may make out a prima facie case by showing … that she belongs to the protected class, that she sought accommodation, that the employer did not accommodate her, and that the employer did accommodate others “similar in their ability or inability to work.” The employer may then seek to justify its refusal to accommodate the plaintiff by relying on legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for denying her accommodation. But … that reason normally cannot consist simply of a claim that it is more expensive or less convenient to add pregnant women to the category of those (“similar in their ability or inability to work”) whom the employer accommodates. *** If the employer offers an apparently legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for its actions, the plaintiff may in turn show that the employer’s proffered reasons are in fact pretextual. We believe that the plaintiff may reach a jury on this issue by providing sufficient evidence that the employer’s policies impose a significant burden on pregnant workers, and that the employer’s legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons are not sufficiently strong to justify the burden, but rather – when considered along with the burden imposed – give rise to an inference of intentional discrimination. The plaintiff can create a genuine issue of material fact as to whether a significant burden exists by providing evidence that the employer accommodates a large percentage of non-pregnant workers while failing to accommodate a large percentage of pregnant workers. Here, for example, if the facts are as Young says they are, she can show that UPS accommodates most non-pregnant employees with lifting limitations while categorically failing to accommodate pregnant employees with lifting limitations. Young might also add that the fact that UPS has multiple policies that accommodate non-pregnant employees with lifting restrictions suggests that its reasons for failing to accommodate pregnant employees with lifting restrictions are not sufficiently strong—to the point that a jury could find that its reasons for failing to accommodate pregnant employees give rise to an inference of intentional discrimination.”

“Viewing the record in the light most favorable to Young, there is a genuine dispute as to whether UPS provided more favorable treatment to at least some employees whose situation cannot reasonably be distinguished from Young’s. In other words, Young created a genuine dispute of material fact as to the fourth prong of the McDonnell Douglas analysis. Young also introduced evidence that UPS had three separate accommodation policies (on-the-job, ADA, DOT). Taken together, Young argued, these policies significantly burdened pregnant women. See App. 504 (shop steward’s testimony that “the only light duty requested [due to physical] restrictions that became an issue” at UPS “were with women who were pregnant”). The Fourth Circuit did not consider the combined effects of these policies, nor did it consider the strength of UPS’ justifications for each when combined. That is, why, when the employer accommodated so many, could it not accommodate pregnant women as well? We do not determine whether Young created a genuine issue of material fact as to whether UPS’ reasons for having treated Young less favorably than it treated these other nonpregnant employees were pretextual. We leave a final determination of that question for the Fourth Circuit to make on remand, in light of the interpretation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act that we have set out above.”

Tags:

CONTACT US

LAMBERTON LAW FIRM, LLC
707 GRANT STREET
1705 GULF TOWER
PITTSBURGH, PA 15219

412-258-2250 | OFFICE DIRECT
412-498-4120 | CELL
412-258-2249 | FAX

CAL@LAMBERTONLAW.COM | EMAIL


facebook
twitter

blog archives