The problem for Young was that company policy, for the kind of driving that Young did, required the driver to be able to lift, push, pull or otherwise move any item that weighed as much as seventy pounds, if it was not oddly shaped. Young was told that, as long as she was under doctor’s orders not to do any significant lifting, she could not return to work in any job while pregnant.
She was simply unable to do the tasks her specific job required, the company told her. It had nothing to do with her pregnancy, UPS argued, because all drivers in Young’s category had to satisfy the lifting rules.
UPS, however, did accommodate its other workers with light-duty assignments, if they were injured on the job, qualified as legally disabled under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, or had lost their federal driver’s certificate because they failed a medical exam, lost their driver’s license, or had been involved in a car or truck accident. That option, Young was told, was not open to her because of the limitations of her pregnancy, and she did not meet any of the conditions.
She complained to the EEOC, which cleared her for a lawsuit against UPS. Among other claims she made in federal district court, Young contended that UPS had violated the 1978 law by discriminating against her based on sex, due to her pregnancy, and that it had refused to treat her equally under a separate clause of the law which guaranteed that pregnant workers “shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes” as compared to other employees with a similar ability or inability to work. She lost on both points in the trial court, and in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
The Fourth Circuit found no direct evidence of sex discrimination based on pregnancy, ruling that the disability policy was “pregnancy-blind” — that is, the company’s limits on accommodation applied to all workers who met one of the specified conditions, and only those workers; it did not single out pregnant workers for less favorable treatment.
And that court rejected Young’s separate claim that she had a right to the same treatment as the workers who did meet those conditions. That clause in the Act, the appeals court said, does not create an independent legal right for pregnant workers to pursue.