2014 was a big year for pregnancy discrimination law and 2015 will most likely be even bigger. Here are five moments that could go down as landmark decisions in women’s rights and pregnancy in the workplace.
The US Supreme Court Takes up the Young vs. UPS Case
This is by far the biggest event in pregnancy discrimination law in 2014. While we won’t see their decision or how it affects law until this year or beyond, the fact they decided to hear the case shows their interest in determining the reach of the federal 1979 Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA).
The question at the center of this case is whether UPS should’ve made accommodations for its employee Peggy Young, a driver whose physician would not allow her to lift anything over 20 pounds during her pregnancy. This stipulation meant she was unable to do her job as a driver. Instead of reassigning her to another position, one without a weight lifting requirement, she went out on extended, unpaid leave resulting in her losing her health insurance.
Young argues that UPS extends light lifting positions to other drivers who become injured or who are protected under the ADA.
The Court heard oral arguments on December 3rd and will render their written decision later this year.
The Florida Supreme Court: Delva vs. Continental Group
This pivotal decision in April found, once and for all, that the Florida Civil Rights Act (FCRA) prohibits pregnancy discrimination. Employee rights advocates have been arguing that the FCRA prohibits pregnancy discrimination for many years; the Florida Supreme Court has now fully clarified that is the case, making state court a viable option for filing pregnancy cases.
The Equal Opportunity Commission Issues Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination
For the first time in 30 years, the EEOC issued new guidance on pregnancy discrimination. In it they wrote that an employer MUST provide accommodations for a pregnant worker if they do the same thing for a non-pregnant employee. The EEOC came under fire for issuing this statement in July 2014 as many believed they should have waited for the Young vs. UPS decision.
Taking Laws into Their own Hands
Some states refused to wait for the Supreme Court or the stalled Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. They issued their own legislation telling employers that they must make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees. These states included Delaware, New Jersey, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, and West Virginia with several cities adopting similar resolutions in New York City, Philadelphia, Central Falls (RI), and Washington D.C. So far, Florida has not followed these states in enacting such legislation.
The AutoZone Test Case
A woman was fired from her management position with AutoZone shortly after announcing her pregnancy and received a jury verdict in excess of $185 million. The courts may ultimately reduce this verdict but it hints at a change in tolerance corporate pregnancy policies and treatment of pregnant employees.
2014 was a big year for pregnancy discrimination cases. The courts are just starting to place parameters around what “reasonable accommodations” look like.
If you think you’ve been discriminated upon due to pregnancy, contact employment attorneys who can help you understand your rights and get the justice you deserve. Contact Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A. for a free consultation.