We #StandWithPeggy — and All Pregnant Workers
The Supreme Court will decide this term if the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) actually means what it says: that employers are required to make accommodations for workers who need them because of pregnancy. The decision in this case, Young v. UPS, will have a major effect on the health and economic security of women and families across the country.
Former UPS driver Peggy Young sued UPS after the company rejected her request for medically necessary and temporary light-duty work during her pregnancy. Evidence showed that UPS had accommodated male workers with light duties when they were temporarily disabled. Young was forced to take unpaid leave and lost both her health care and income at a critical time. Young sued UPS citing the PDA, which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees or job applicants on the basis of pregnancy or a pregnancy-related condition. Both the federal district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit sided with UPS, but another circuit court considered a similar issue and found that the PDA did apply.
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case on December 3. During the arguments, AAUW and several other organizations protested pregnancy discrimination in a rally outside the Supreme Court and on social media using #StandWithPeggy.
The court’s decision will have broad effects because 75 percent of the 68 million women working in America will become pregnant at some point in their lives. When a pregnant woman is denied accommodations, she is forced to make an unnecessary choice between her job and her pregnancy. Women are the sole or primary breadwinners in 40 percent of American families with children, which means that when women are forced to give up working, their children suffer as well.
Since the PDA passed more than 30 years ago, pregnant women have continued to face injustices in the workplace. AAUW is committed to fighting pregnancy discrimination and has made workplace equity a top priority. AAUW’s Legal Advocacy Fund has supported pregnancy discrimination cases such as Crystal v. Regents of the University of Michigan and has been a strong advocate for the rights of pregnant workers. In addition, AAUW supports the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which would require employers to make reasonable accommodations to protect the health of pregnant workers, such as letting them carry bottles of water or take restroom breaks.
There has been an overwhelming amount of public support for Young and other working mothers. A recent survey by the Center for American Progress found that 79 percent of people (men and women) believe that the Supreme Court should side with Young. Even after hearing UPS’s arguments, 75 percent of the people surveyed still believed that pregnant workers should not be forced to choose between work and the health of their pregnancies.
Will the Supreme Court side with UPS and make it even harder for pregnant workers to provide for their growing families? We’ll #StandWithPeggy regardless of the outcome and continue to fight for women in the workplace who are faced with pregnancy discrimination.
Whether you’re an employer, a pregnant worker, or an advocate looking for more information, this is a good place to start learning about pregnancy discrimination protections at work.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act protects the rights of millions of working women in the United States. Find out how.
The Legal Advocacy Fund (LAF) supports a select number of cases in the workplace and in academia that concern women’s issues. Read about our past and current cases.