Accommodating Pregnant Employees Is a Legal Floor, Not a Ceiling

UPS has agreed to pay $2.25 million to settle a pregnancy discrimination charge investigated by the EEOC.

The agency was to consider whether UPS’s policy of providing light duty as an accommodation to employees injured on the job, but not to pregnant employees, violated Title VII. The policy the agency was investigating appears to predate the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Young v. UPS.

Despite the Young case and this settlement, Title VII does not expressly require that employers offer any accommodations to pregnant employees. Practically, however, the law tells a different story. Title VII does not require employers to treat pregnant employees better than non-pregnant employees; they just can’t treat them any worse.

Thus, employers must provide the same accommodations to pregnant workers as to other workers with similarly disabling medical conditions. This rule will impose a light-duty and other accommodation obligation on most employers.

Ask yourself —

  • Have I ever provided light duty to expedite the return-to-work of an employee with a work-comp claim?
  • Have I ever provided light duty to an employee as an ADA reasonable accommodation?
  • Have I ever provided time off to an employee as an ADA reasonable accommodation?

If you answer “yes” to either of these questions (and most employers will), then you cannot deny the same light duty or other accommodations to a pregnant worker. And that’s the lesson UPS spent $2.25 million to learn.

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