September 12, 2014

Cardin, Mikulski Join Over 120 Members Of Congress On Casey, Shaheen Amicus Brief In Pregnant Worker Discrimination Case

Senators’ brief supports case of Peggy Young of Landover, Maryland who claims she suffered workplace discrimination because she was pregnant

WASHINGTONU.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski (both D-Md.) today announced that they have joined U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and 121 other members of Congress in filing an amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court on behalf of Peggy Young, a resident of Landover, Maryland. In her case, Young v UPS, Ms. Young argues that she was discriminated against in the workplace when her employer refused to provide modifications to her job that would have allowed her to continue working during her pregnancy, even though similar modifications were routinely provided to other employees with similar ability or inability to work.

 

In the brief the members’ wrote, “The legislative history of the PDA clearly reflects Congress’s intention to protect pregnant workers by defining the sole factor employers may use to distinguish between pregnant workers and others in deciding whether to extend benefits in employment as one that is based on the ability or inability to work.  Further, [we] submit this brief to make clear that nothing in the PWFA or the fact it has been proposed implies that the Fourth Circuit decision is anything other than an inappropriate judicial rewriting of unambiguous statutory language.”

 

According to Ms. Young’s case, accommodations were routinely given to workers with temporary injuries, but when Peggy Young asked for an accommodation to comply with her doctor’s recommendation that she not lift boxes over 20 pounds, her employer denied the request – because she was pregnant. Ms. Young challenged her employer in court alleging that her employer violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act by not allowing her to work with a reasonable accommodation through her pregnancy.

 

Unfortunately, Peggy Young lost her case in the lower courts, with the 4th Circuit finding that UPS’s policy of accommodating workers with disabilities, workers injured on the job, and workers who had lost their commercial driver’s licenses, was a pregnancy-blind rule that did not violate the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

 

Both Senators Cardin and Mikulski are cosponsors of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), which would strengthen the right of pregnant workers to request reasonable accommodations during their pregnancy 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.

 

Currently, pregnant working women around the country are being denied simple adjustments – permission to use a stool while working a cash register, or to carry a bottle of water to stay hydrated, or temporary reassignment to lighter duty tasks – that would keep them working and supporting their families while maintaining healthy pregnancies. The legislation will close legal loopholes and ensure that pregnant women are treated fairly on the job.

 

Some states have passed laws like the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act to ensure that pregnant workers have on-the-job protections, but millions of women are vulnerable to this type of workplace discrimination.

 

Statistics on Pregnant Workers

Percentage of workers who give birth per year

State

As a share of employed women of childbearing age

As a share of all employed people

United States

4.7%

1.6%

2009-2011 averages based on data from the American Community Survey

Women 16 to 50 years old who gave birth in a 12-month period and were in the labor force

State

Total number of women who gave birth in the past 12 months

Total number of women who gave birth in the past 12 months who were in the labor force

Percentage of pregnant women and new moms who were in the labor force

United States

4,216,387

2,600,379

62%

2011 data from the American Community Survey

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