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Md. court says employers need not accommodate pregnant workers

Anyone who has been pregnant knows that pregnancy can be debilitating at times. Even in the healthiest and least complicated of pregnancies, women can be brought down by nausea and have to stop doing routine tasks at home and work due to doctors' orders to stop lifting. For many women, these are only minor inconveniences because they will pass and there are people to help out in the meantime. For other women, such side effects of pregnancy may lead to a job loss.

A UPS delivery truck driver in Maryland was put on an extended, unpaid leave by the company because she had lifting restrictions due to her pregnancy. With the restriction, she was not able to do her usual job, and UPS would not give her to light duty because the company policy stated light duty would only be offered to those who qualify under the Americans with Disabilities Act, those who sustained on-the-job injuries, and those who had lost their federal transportation certification.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers must make reasonable accommodations for workers with disabilities, but pregnancy itself is not treated as a disability. However, the ADA was amended in 2008 to say that temporary disabilities related to pregnancy should be accommodated under the ADA.

This woman sued UPS for discrimination shortly before the ADA amendment went into effect, and the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of UPS. It said the woman offered no evidence of a disability other than the fact that she was pregnant--she did, however, reportedly have medical orders not to lift more than 20 pounds. Her job required the ability to lift 70 pounds.

The woman plans to appeal to the Supreme Court, and in the meantime state lawmakers have also proposed a law to enhance the employment rights of pregnant women.

Some states do have legislation to protect pregnant women on the job, and this has been important in many cases because the ADA's pregnancy protections are often interpreted differently by different judges. The future of this case and this legislation remain to be seen. For now, pregnant women who have been discriminated against in the workplace should seek legal counsel in order to stand up for their employment rights.

Source: Workforce.com, "Legal Brief: Court Rules Pregnant Worker Not Entitled to Accommodations for Lifting," James E. Hall, Mark T.Kobata and Marty Denis, April 2, 2013

Source: Baltimore Sun, "Bill would offer more protection to pregnant workers," Andrea K. Walker, March 22, 2013

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