Fair Treatment for Pregnant Workers: Peggy Young's Story
I worked as an early morning air driver at UPS in Landover, Maryland for about ten years. When I became pregnant, UPS told me I must bring in a doctor’s note with my restrictions. My midwife wrote a note recommending that I lift no more than 20 pounds during my pregnancy.
I gave the note to my supervisor and the UPS health manager. I said that I would be happy to work either a light duty job or my regular job. I almost never had to lift more than a few pounds in my job as an early morning air driver.
The UPS health manager told me that UPS has a policy of no light duty for pregnancy. She told me that I needed to get a note from my doctor saying that I was fully disabled and could not work at all. That was not true. I could work. I wanted to work. My family needed my pay, and I needed my medical benefits.
UPS gives light duty to employees injured on the job, to those protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act, and to others with a wide variety of medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, vision or hearing problems, limb impairments, sleep apnea, and emotional problems. UPS gives light duty jobs to employees in these categories with ten-pound lifting restrictions.
But UPS refused to let me work either light duty or my regular job even though I begged to work. The highest manager in the UPS building where I worked told me that I could not come back in the building until I was no longer pregnant because I was too much of a liability.
For the last six and a half months of my pregnancy, by forcing me off my job UPS made me go without my pay and my benefits, causing my family financial distress. My UPS health benefits were one of the main reasons I worked there. Because UPS would not let me work, I lost my health insurance. I could no longer use the medical care I had chosen. I had to use less desirable medical care four times as far from home. I also lost my right to disability benefits related to my pregnancy and childbirth. What started as a very happy pregnancy became one of the most stressful times of my life.
I sued UPS for pregnancy discrimination and lost. I believe the courts failed to correctly apply the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which says that employers must treat pregnant employees the same way they treat other employees similar in ability or inability to work.
Peggy Young filed a case in federal court alleging that her employer violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act by failing to accommodate her. She lost her case in the lower court and on appeal, with the appellate court holding that UPS’s policy of providing accommodations to workers with disabilities, workers injured on the job, and workers who had lost their commercial driver’s license, was a pregnancy-blind rule that did not violate the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. She has asked the United States Supreme Court to review her case.
It Shouldn't Be a Heavy Lift: Fair Treatment for Pregnant Workers, a report from A Better Balance and the National Women's Law Center, features this and other stories of pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. Click here to read the other stories and learn more.