Cases test the limits of pregnancy discrimination laws

Several workers have sued their employers for allegedly failing to provide accommodations for pregnancy-related medical conditions

The Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act (ADAAA) was passed in 2008, but its full implications for pregnant workers are still unclear, as several recent cases indicate.

In the past few months, two pregnant workers have filed complaints against their employers, arguing that their companies broke the law by failing to accommodate their pregnancy-related medical conditions.

On Thursday, Amy Crosby, a cleaner at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, filed a complaint alleging that the hospital would not provide her with light-duty work when she suffered from pregnancy-related carpal tunnel syndrome. Instead, the hospital placed her on unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, Thomson Reuters reports.

In another lawsuit, the American Civil Liberties Union sued United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) for allegedly failing to accommodate Julie Desantis-Mayer, one of its pregnant drivers. UPS did grant Desantis-Mayer light-duty work, but it reportedly told her that the position would not count towards her benefits or seniority.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), passed in 1978, requires employers to provide pregnant employees with the same accommodations as those who are similar in their ability to work. But, in practice, the law doesn’t always require companies to provide pregnant employees with light-duty work.

In January, for example, the 4th Circuit ruled against another UPS driver, Peggy Young, who sued the company after it would not give her light-duty work to accommodate a temporary, pregnancy-related lifting restriction. In that case, the appeals court found that UPS’s policy—which provided light-duty work only to employees who had been injured on the job, who lost their Department of Transportation certification or who fell under the ADA—was pregnancy-blind, because it did not accommodate any employees who suffered off-the-job injuries.

But experts warn that the 4th Circuit’s ruling doesn’t exempt employers from accommodating pregnant workers, especially since the Young case was filed before the passage of the ADAAA, which expanded the ADA to include workers with temporary disabilities.

“Under the narrow facts of this case … the employer had no obligation to make this accommodation,” says Jon Hyman, a partner at Kohrman Jackson & Krantz says. “Going forward, however, companies really act at their peril if they do not at least consider an unpaid leave of absence as an accommodation for a pregnant worker.”

For more pregnancy-related stories on InsideCounsel, see:

Court denies contraceptive coverage injunction

Hobby Lobby loses appeal of contraception coverage

LucasFilm wins appeal of $1.2 million pregnancy discrimination verdict

ADAAA could soon protect pregnant workers

Former “Price is Right” model wins $777,000 in pregnancy lawsuit

Firing of pregnant first-year employee ruled illegal

Woman sues birth control pill maker for unintended pregnancy

 

Alanna Byrne

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