Friday, September 12, 2014
Amicus Brief of Pro-Life Organizations Supporting Strong Protection for Pregnant Workers from Discrimination
(from Tom Berg:) I'm very pleased to tell others about an amicus curiae brief, filed in the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday by 23 pro-life organizations in Young v. United Parcel Service, an important case involving the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (the PDA). The brief, which supports the pregnant employee who filed suit against UPS, is by pro-life organizations from across the political spectrum, from Concerned Women for America and the Southern Baptists to Feminists for Nonviolent Choices and Democrats for Life. Here are a couple of news releases, from St. Thomas Law and from the Democrats for Life (on whose board I sit), each summarizing the case (and also linking to the brief).
The filing of the brief makes important statements that, I think, are noteworthy in our society polarized over the “life” issue and how to address it. In this, a variety of pro-life groups with different missions, who disagree on other things, have come together to emphasize that supporting pregnant women is a fundamentally pro-life position. I suspect that, in our polarized atmosphere, some people may be surprised that a bunch of pro-life groups have filed to support working women—so spread the news!
I worked along with several other counsel, including my colleague Teresa Collett, to organize and draft the brief. And yet another St. Thomas Law colleague, MOJ's own Lisa Schiltz, made important contributions to the brief as well. (Go Tommies!)
The case involves Peggy Young, a driver for UPS who became pregnant and, based on the doctor’s note concerning lifting restrictions, sought to be switched to “light duty” work for the remaining few months of her pregnancy. UPS had provided such an accommodation for several significant categories of employees, including those injured on the job, those with disabilities, and those who had lost their commercial driving license for various medical reasons—but it refused to accommodate Young. She was forced to take an unpaid leave and lost her employer-provided health insurance for several months. Young sued under the PDA, which requires that pregnant women be treated the same as other employees “similar in their ability or inability to work.” Although UPS had made the accommodations mentioned above, the lower courts ruled against Young because there were other categories of employees UPS had not accommodated (e.g. off-the-job injuries); essentially, the court said that pregnancy was not discriminated against if it was treated no worse than those and was not ”singled out” for denial. Young is seeking reversal in the Supreme Court.
The case raises an important issue concerning the effectiveness of the PDA’s protection for pregnant employees, since many employers make accommodations for some but not all employees with physical limitations. The pro-life organizations’ brief argues that pregnancy should be treated as well as conditions the employer deems important enough to accommodate, not as poorly as conditions the employer refuses to accommodate. The brief points to the background of the PDA, which had support in 1978 from pro-life groups and pro-life members of Congress. Their rationale was that protecting pregnant women from discrimination reduced pressure on economically vulnerable women to abort their children, and strengthens the fundamental right to bear children and raise a family. The brief makes those arguments as well.
Counsel of record are Carrie Severino and Jonathan Keim of the Judicial Education Project (also an amicus).
Cross-posted (with minor changes) at Whole Life Democrat