Discrimination by another name is still discrimination. Employers have tried to disguise discrimination in many forms over the years. Pregnancy discrimination is a form of gender discrimination that has regularly been "hidden" behind work rules that may appear legitimate on their face. Whether a restriction is legitimate or not has been a matter contested in courtrooms all across the nation. A pregnancy bias case against the United Parcel Service reached the Supreme Court this week.
When a doctor ordered her to avoid lifting heavy objects during her pregnancy, a UPS employee requested light-duty work. UPS had a policy that limited such work to people who suffered workplace injuries, who were considered disabled under federal law, or who lost their driver certification. The policy led UPS to tell the pregnant employee that she could no longer work there, but that she should come back when she was no longer pregnant. UPS has defended the decision by stating that it did not intentionally discriminate against her based on her pregnancy.
Men don't get pregnant. Meanwhile, the majority of women entering the working world today will get pregnant at some point during their working years. Rules that place a burden on workers who get pregnant are clearly targeted at female employees. While some women will see no interruption in their ability to do their jobs during pregnancy, others will experience medical concerns or related issues that affect their employment.
Under New Jersey law, employers are required to participate in a good faith, interactive discussion about "reasonable accommodation" that would allow pregnant employees to keep working while dealing with pregnancy-related medical issues. The Supreme Court's decision could strongly impact how those conversations go in the future.
Source: MSN News, "Ex-UPS driver's pregnancy bias claim at high court" by Mark Sherman, 1 December 2014