Law School Case Brief
Young v. UPS - 135 S. Ct. 1338 (2015)
Liability in a disparate-treatment case depends on whether the protected trait actually motivated the employer’s decision. Judicial precedent makes clear that a plaintiff can prove disparate treatment either (1) by direct evidence that a workplace policy, practice, or decision relies expressly on a protected characteristic, or (2) by using the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework.
In 2006, Peggy Young was working as a delivery driver for United Parcel Service when she requested time off in order to undergo in vitro fertilization. After becoming pregnant, Young's doctors advised her that "she should not lift more than 20 pounds during the first 20 weeks of her pregnancy or more than 10 pounds thereafter." United Parcel Service (UPS) requires that delivery drivers be able to lift parcels up to 70 pounds (150 pounds with assistance). Young informed UPS that she could not work while under a lifting restriction and stayed home without pay during most of the time she was pregnant. Because of her time away from work, Young lost her employee medical coverage. She then filed suit in federal court, claiming that "UPS acted unlawfully in refusing to accommodate her pregnancy-related lifting restriction."
Did the employer’s policy and the way in which it burdened pregnant women show that the employer engaged in intentional discrimination?
A worker making a claim that her company intentionally treated her differently due to her pregnancy must show that she sought an accommodation, her company refused and then granted accommodations to others suffering from similar restrictions. The company, in turn, can try to show that its reasons were legitimate — but not because it is more expensive or less convenient to add pregnant women to the categories of workers who are accommodated. The Court found that the employee created a genuine dispute as to whether the employer provided more favorable treatment to at least some employees whose situations could not reasonably be distinguished from hers. The Court also left to the Fourth Circuit to determine whether the employee also created a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the employer's reasons for having treated her less favorably than these other nonpregnant employees were pretextual. To determine whether UPS engaged in discrimination under the terms of the new test, reflecting the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Court remanded the case to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit for further proceedings.
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