Supreme Court Decision in Young v. UPS Highlights Need for Change in Pennsylvania

By Marah Lange, MSW Candidate, University of Pennsylvania

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Last week, women across the country celebrated when the Supreme Court ruled in support of pregnant workers in the case Young v. UPS.

When Peggy Young was pregnant with her now 7-year-old daughter, her doctor recommended she not lift more than 20 pounds. What happened next takes place all too often: UPS, her employer at the time, refused to provide her temporary accommodations, as it typically did for other workers, including people with disabilities, people with on-the-job injuries, and even people who had lost their commercial drivers’ licenses as a result of DUI convictions.

Despite Peggy’s willingness to keep working with simple modifications to her job, she was forced to take unpaid leave and go without income during a time when she needed it most. So Peggy went to court.

Last week’s Supreme Court decision sent Peggy’s case back to the lower courts, which originally ruled in UPS’s favor. And more importantly, it signaled to all employers that if they are accommodating most other workers with injuries or disabilities while refusing to accommodate most pregnant workers who need it, they are likely violating the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

While this ruling is a significant victory, many pregnant workers may continue to face difficulty requesting and receiving temporary accommodations or successfully challenging employers that discriminate. For example, women in smaller workplaces, women who are new to their jobs, and workers with limited bargaining power may not know their employers’ accommodations policies or the accommodations their co-workers have received.

That’s why 13 states, including Peggy’s home state of Maryland, have passed legislation to strengthen protections for pregnant workers. Now it’s time for Pennsylvania legislators to step up to the plate. The Pennsylvania Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would strengthen protections for pregnant workers and help ensure that women aren’t put in the unnecessary and unsafe position of choosing between the health of their pregnancies and their jobs. This is especially critical for women working in low-wage jobs and for the 41 percent of families in which women are the primary breadwinners.

In order for women to have the freedom to make reproductive decisions for themselves and their families – like decision to have a child while working – temporary and reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers are a must.

Marah Lange is an MSW Candidate at the University of Pennsylvania. She currently interns for the Clara Bell Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project.