WASHINGTON – The case of a Maryland delivery driver is providing a legal backdrop to efforts by state lawmakers to aid pregnant women in the workplace.
Peggy Young was a driver for UPS Inc. and had been trying to get pregnant when she finally got the news: She would be having a baby.
Young’s attorney, Sharon Fast Gustafson, says her client was told that in order to come back to work for UPS while pregnant, she’d have to bring a doctor’s note listing her restrictions.
Gustafson says Young’s midwife wrote a note recommending that Young not lift more than 20 pounds during her pregnancy, which the lawyer says shouldn’t have been difficult.
“You know those UPS envelopes … that letters come in? That’s the bulk of what she delivered,” Gustafson says.
Later, court documents say Young was told the company did not offer light duty — a restriction some workers can seek — for pregnant workers.
A UPS occupational health manager “believed she was required to treat Young the same as she would any other UPS employee who had a lifting restriction that did not result from an on-the-job injury or illness and who could not perform his or her regular job,” documents say. “According to (the manager), she would have allowed Young to return to work if Young could provide a medical certification removing her lifting restriction and stating she could perform the essential functions of her job.”
According to Young, another UPS manager told her she was “too much of a liability” while pregnant and she could not come back to the building where she worked until she was no longer pregnant. Young took unpaid leave for the remainder of her pregnancy.
Gustafson says they filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the case went to court.
“The District Court and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals said that UPS was not required to accommodate Peggy Young because she did not fall into the categories that people that UPS accomodates … She was not injured on the job and she was not disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act,” Gustafson says.
While Young’s case continues in the courts, Maryland lawmakers are considering legislation that would help women who become pregnant while holding a job and may need some kind of accommodation during their pregnancy.
Delegate Tom Hucker, D-Montgomery, is a backer of the the bills that were cross-filed in the Maryland General Assembly. He says the bills should not be seen as asking for special treatment, but allowing for the same accommodations that other workers who have a temporary disability get.
“It’s a win-win: It helps the employee and it helps the employer because it keeps a qualified worker in the job for as long as possible during her pregnancy,” Hucker says.
There are two weeks left in the General Assembly’s legislative session.
Gustafson says she may ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review Young’s case.