With a case pending with the U.S. Supreme Court, UPS has done an about-face on its policy regarding pregnant workers. The company recently issued a memo in which it stated that it would now offer temporary light duty work to pregnant workers, a policy already in place for injured workers but previously not extended to pregnant ones.
The policy change came as a surprise to many as the company is currently defending against claims that it denied a pregnant worker light duty work when her doctor ordered her to cease heavy-lifting. Its previous policy was that pregnant workers either needed to continue in their current role (i.e., lifting heavy boxes) or leave their position. UPS is effectively stating in its legal defense that it was justified in denying the work, but simultaneously has suggested that the policy needed to be changed by reversing it.
While not legally relevant, as evidentiary laws prohibit the policy change from being considered in the pending case, it does suggest that the policy was discriminatory in nature. The case has drawn a great deal of media attention and the company has come under fire for failing to accommodate a pregnant worker. Both liberal and conservative groups have decried the former policy as punishing women for getting pregnant.
The worker who brought the suit against UPS is claiming that the company violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, which has been interpreted a myriad of ways by different courts. Some have used it to require employers to accommodate pregnant workers in the same way it would employees injured on the job, while others have suggested that pregnancy is not a condition an employer is responsible for and that it has no duty to accommodate such workers. A decision by the Supreme Court will offer guidance as to how the law should be interpreted that will allow lower courts to uniformly enforce it.