Discrimination in the workplace is real and it happens every day. Some are discriminated based on their skin color, others are discriminated based on their sexual preference, and many are discriminated based on their sex.
This week the Supreme Court will hear a case, Young v UPS, that will decide if it is legal to discriminate against pregnant women.
After working as a delivery driver for UPS, Peggy Young became pregnant. This is not uncommon as 2.5 million working women become pregnant every year. As Peggy’s pregnancy progressed her doctor restricted her to light duty. The doctor said that Peggy should avoid lifting anything over 20 pounds.
Peggy went to UPS and asked to be reassigned to light duty activities. UPS denied her request and to add insult to their denial, they fired her as well. Not only did Peggy lose her paycheck she lost her healthcare too. This is why she chose to sue UPS for lost wages and expenses.
Some are saying this case is moot as UPS has already changed their policy, allowing pregnant women to work light duty jobs, but this case could set a very bad precedence.
Some lawmakers are not waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on this case and have already filed new legislation to strengthen the protections for pregnant women. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) authored the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), legislation which would strengthen the rights of pregnant workers to request accommodations during their pregnancy without fear of retribution.
The PWFA would secure the right of a pregnant worker to ask for workplace accommodations 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.
“A woman should never have to face a choice between her job and pregnancy,” Senator Shaheen said. “Women are a crucial part of our workforce, and they have every right to receive reasonable workplace accommodations to continue a healthy pregnancy while providing for their families and contributing to the economy.”
“Women make up nearly half of the workforce, and in Pennsylvania, approximately 96,000 women in the workforce give birth each year,” Senator Casey said. “Too many women still face discrimination in the workplace during pregnancy as some employers continue to refuse to provide reasonable accommodations. No woman should be forced out of a job because she is pregnant. Every employer should work to provide accommodations that will allow women to keep working safely through their pregnancies.”
The Senate version of the PWFA (S.942) currently has 33 co-sponsors, 32 Democrats and one Independent, Senator Sanders (I-VT).
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-10) submitted identical legislation (H.R 1975) to the House and it currently has 140 co-cosponsors, again all Democrats.
“No woman should ever be discriminated against in the workplace simply because she is pregnant, and I was proud to help send an Amicus Brief to the Supreme Court supporting Peggy Young, whose treatment by her employer clearly violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “As a cosponsor of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which additionally prohibits employers from treating pregnant workers unfairly, I urge the Supreme Court to fall on the right side of the law and rule against UPS for its unacceptable, discriminatory treatment of Peggy Young.”
This case has created some strange bedfellows. Both Pro-Life and Pro-Choice groups have come out in support of Peggy and her case against UPS. Vox.com reported:
“Both the anti-abortion right and the feminist left have filed amicus briefs on behalf of Young, though they come at it from different angles. Women’s rights groups like the Women’s Law Project and Legal Momentum (formerly known as the NOW Legal Defense Fund) have signed onto briefs arguing Young’s side of the case. In one of those briefs, these groups argue that the Fourth Circuit was incorrect and ‘misconceive[d] the gender stereotyping behind pregnancy discrimination.’”
If both Pro-Life and Pro-Choice groups support stronger protections for working pregnant women, why hasn’t a single Republican signed on to support the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act? Protecting the mother, protects the child, and the pregnancy.
This should be a slam dunk for Congress.
Or, is it just another example of how Congressional Republicans do not really care about working families and are blocking anti-discrimination legislation for their corporate campaign funders?