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5 Ways to Fight Workplace Pregnancy Discrimination


Last week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case involving a pregnant woman and the claim of workplace discrimination. According to court documents, Peggy Young requested a weight-lift restriction of 20 pounds from UPS, based on a doctor’s recommendation, when she became pregnant in 2008. Instead, she was put on unpaid leave, without benefits.

Pregnancy Discrimination

(Photo Credit: David Castillo Dominici/

In The New York Times, Dorothy Samuels followed the historical breadcrumb trail to offer some perspective for the Young case. In 1976, in General Electric Co v. Gilbert, the Supreme Court ruled that pregnancy discrimination was not sex discrimination. In this case, the justices said that the company could deny benefits, as long as benefits were denied to others. 

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Subsequently, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 amended the sex discrimination section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to enact better protection under the law for pregnant women. Specifically, the PDA means that women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions must be treated at least as well as other employees “not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work.”

In the most recent case, Young v. United Parcel Service, Young claimed that UPS violated the PDA when they refused her the same accommodations that they’d provided to other workers. UPS claimed that their policies were “pregnancy-neutral,” and governed by collective bargaining, according to The Washington Post, which also reports that UPS has already changed their policy regarding pregnant workers.

While Young’s case is still with the Supreme Court, you may still be experiencing discrimination, and it’s important that you understand exactly what you can do about it. So, here’s a quick overview of what you need to do if you feel you’re affected by pregnancy discrimination:

1. Educate Yourself. 

You must first understand what pregnancy discrimination is, from a legal standpoint. You can read the full text of the PDA from the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC describes pregnancy discrimination as: “treating a woman (an applicant or employee) unfavorably because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth.” But, you’re only covered by the PDA if there are 15 or more employees where you work. Also, you must file your complaint within 180 days.

2. Track the Evidence. 

You must document your experience. Your proof may consist of emails, as well as written reports of what happened. Your documentation should include specific details: date, time, event, and who else was there. These notes will be important if you seek legal counsel and pursue legal action; they will help you explain your situation. You’ll also want to keep a copy of your notes at home or in an off-worksite location.

3. Talk with Your Employer.

Your workplace concerns can’t be resolved until you discuss the issues with your employer, often via the HR Department. Also, if you are part of a union, be sure to discuss your concerns with your rep first. 

4. Get Advice.

If your attempt to resolve your workplace concerns are not addressed to your satisfaction, your next step is to seek legal advice. You can seek help from the Equal Rights Advocates, a lawyer, or a legal aid organization.

5. Be a Good Worker

This one may seem obvious, but your workplace complaint probably won’t be resolved overnight. In the meantime, you’ll likely need the income from your job. So, through the whole process, you should continue to do your work to the best of your ability (if possible), and document your work. 

While your first goal is to achieve an amicable resolution with your employer, it’s not always possible. While we still don’t know how the Supreme Court will rule, the PDA still offers protection.

After all, UPS is not the only company that is being charged with workplace discrimination based on a woman’s pregnant status. (The Huffington Post highlights a case against Pier 1 Imports, for example.) It’s also important to note that the proposed Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would also make it mandatory for employers to provide accommodation, although unfortunately, that bill hasn’t passed the House or the Senate.

Tell Us What You Think

Are you concerned that you’ve been affected by pregnancy discrimination at your job? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Esther Lombardi
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Nathan Johnson
Nathan Johnson

Thanks for taking the time to explain the history of pregnancy discrimination. I can see how this can be a huge problem because pregnant women are choosing more often to continue to work. My wife was really lucky because her employer was very flexible with her working schedule while she was pregnant and also after the baby came. I hope that pregnant working women everywhere can get the circumstances they need. Thanks for sharing!

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