Kaine joins Supreme Court brief in pregnancy discrimination case

kaine new2Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine joined 126 other members of Congress in filing an amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court on behalf of Peggy Young.

In her case, Young v. UPS, Ms. Young argues that she was discriminated against in the workplace when her employer refused to provide reasonable accommodations to her job that would have allowed her to continue working during her pregnancy, even though similar accommodations were routinely provided to other employees with similar ability or inability to work. Kaine is a co-sponsor of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), which would strengthen the right of pregnant workers to request reasonable accommodations during their pregnancy without fear of retribution.

“The legislative history of the PDA clearly reflects Congress’s intention to protect pregnant workers by defining the sole factor employers may use to distinguish between pregnant workers and others in deciding whether to extend benefits in employment as one that is based on the ability or inability to work,” Kaine and the other members wrote in the brief.  “Further, [we] submit this brief to make clear that nothing in the PWFA or the fact it has been proposed implies that the Fourth Circuit decision is anything other than an inappropriate judicial rewriting of unambiguous statutory language.”


Young v. UPS

According to Ms. Young’s case, accommodations were routinely given to workers with temporary injuries, but when Peggy Young asked for an accommodation to comply with her doctor’s recommendation that she not lift boxes over 20 pounds, her employer denied the request – because she was pregnant. Ms. Young challenged her employer in court alleging that her employer violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act by not allowing her to work with a reasonable accommodation through her pregnancy.

Unfortunately, Peggy Young lost her case in the lower courts, with the 4th Circuit finding that UPS’s policy of accommodating workers with disabilities, workers injured on the job, and workers who had lost their commercial driver’s licenses, was a pregnancy-blind rule that did not violate the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.


Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA)

The PWFA would secure the right of a pregnant worker to ask for a reasonable accommodation in the workplace without fear of retribution. Today, women make up nearly half of the labor force, and three-quarters of women entering the workforce will be pregnant and employed at some point in their careers.

Currently, pregnant working women around the country are being denied simple adjustments – permission to use a stool while working a cash register, or to carry a bottle of water to stay hydrated, or temporary reassignment to lighter duty tasks – that would keep them working and supporting their families while maintaining healthy pregnancies. The legislation will close legal loopholes and ensure that pregnant women are treated fairly on the job.

Some states have passed laws like the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act to ensure that pregnant workers have on-the-job protections, but millions of women are vulnerable to this type of workplace discrimination.


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