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Do Pregnant Employees Have A Legal Right To A Workplace Accommodation?

A recent U.S. Supreme Court case suggests that employers may be required to give pregnant employees accommodations if they would do so for other employees with similar workplace limitations.

The case at issue, Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc., involved a part-time UPS driver who became pregnant during her employment. Although Young’s position required her to be able to lift 70 pounds, her doctor limited her lifting to no more than 20 pounds during her pregnancy. Young requested a light-duty accommodation, but her employer denied the request. Young asserted that light-duty accommodations had been extended to other workers, such as employees who had been accommodated for a disability, employees who had been injured on the job, and employees who had lost their Department of Transportation certifications. According to the Supreme Court, federal law requires inquiry into whether an employer’s policy treats pregnant employees less favorably than other employees with a similar ability or inability to complete their job requirements. If an employer does treat pregnant employees less favorably, a violation of federal law could result.

The Supreme Court’s interpretation suggests that employers should be careful about denying accommodations to pregnant workers, particularly where such an accommodation has been offered to non-pregnant employees in the past. In light of this decision, employers should review their policies and practices to ensure they account for the Supreme Court’s recent analysis.

For more information, please contact Attorney Scott Paler or another DeWitt attorney.

About the Author

Scott Paler is a Partner practicing out of our Madison office. He is Chair of the Background Screening practice group and the Former Chair of the Labor & Employment practice group.  He is also a member of the firm's Litigation practice group and Executive Committee. Contact Scott by email or by phone at (608) 252-9213.

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