“Come back when you’re not pregnant.” That’s what Peggy Young testifies her supervisor told her after her medical provider advised that she avoid lifting more than 20 pounds for the remainder of her pregnancy. Young, a UPS driver from Landover, Maryland, was forced out onto unpaid leave without company health benefits. On December 3, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in her pregnancy discrimination case, Young v. UPS. The case marks the first time the Court will hear a case critical to both women’s health and economic security since the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision in June, when five Justices held that Hobby Lobby and other companies could ignore the legal requirement that they include coverage of birth control in their health insurance plans if they had religious objections to contraception. The Young case will be an important test of whether a majority of the Supreme Court continues to have a “blind spot” where women’s issues are concerned. The stakes are high for women and their families.
Peggy Young was a UPS driver, delivering mostly light air mail packages. When she became pregnant and was given a lifting restriction, she told UPS she was willing to continue to do her regular job, as it was rare that she had to lift anything heavy, or take a light duty assignment—the sort of reassignment that UPS routinely provided to employees who had disabilities as defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act and those with on-the-job injuries and those who had lost their commercial drivers' licenses, whether because of health problems or issues such as DUI convictions. But UPS said that because of her lifting restriction, it would not permit her to continue to do her regular job. And it also refused to reassign her, despite the accommodations it provided to other workers with medical restrictions and despite the command of the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act that employers treat pregnant workers as well as they treat those who are “similar in ability or inability to work.” Her family’s financial security was threatened at the moment they needed it the most.