Must Employers Provide Light Duty to Pregnant Workers?
The Supreme Court holds that if an employer offers light duty (LD) to some groups of employees, it may have to offer LD to pregnant workers as well.
In 1978, Congress enacted the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, amending Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to make clear that discrimination based upon sex includes discrimination on account of pregnancy and/or childbirth. In addition to prohibiting discrimination based upon pregnancy, the PDA added a second clause stating that employers must treat “women affected by pregnancy . . . the same for all employment-related purposes. . . as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work.”
Young v UPS
The meaning of the second clause of the PDA—stating that employers must treat pregnant workers with limitations the same as others with similar work limitations—was the issue in Young v. UPS. In Young, a pregnant driver with lifting restrictions sued her employer because she was not allowed to participate in a light duty program reserved for workers injured on the job, or who had ADA covered disabilities, or who had temporarily lost their DOT certifications. The district and circuit courts held that the exclusion of pregnant workers was lawful. The Supreme Court vacated the decision while announcing a new test that will make it easier for pregnant workers to qualify for light duty.
Review Your LD Policy
Federal law does not mandate that employers offer LD policies. If your LD policy excludes a large percentage of pregnant workers with work limitations, but
accommodates a large number of non-pregnant workers, you may need to change the policy. Moreover, as explained infra, excluding pregnant workers from LD policies may violate the ADAAA.
Impact of ADAAA On LD Policies
Plaintiff Young was denied light duty before the expanded definition of disability under the ADAAA went into effect. Because the ADA now requires employers to accommodate many workers with temporary restrictions caused by injuries or illnesses, most pregnant workers will be entitled to light duty work as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA, thus largely mooting the impact of the Young decision.