The U.S. Supreme Court has issued its decision in Young v. UPS. Young concerned a female driver who became pregnant and was then refused an accommodation involving lifting restrictions. She could not lift over a certain weight limit. The plaintiff argued that she was treated differently than non-pregnant drivers with disabilities who could receive an accommodation involving weight limits. The Supreme Court surprised both parties by adopting a middle-of-the-road approach. The court overruled the Fourth Court of Appeals’ affirmance of summary judgment. That alone is rare enough.

The Supreme Court pointed out that a worker can always show her case through circumstantial evidence. It went further and ruled that pregnant worker can show that she was treated differently than other workers who were similarly unable to work. That is, the court allows comparison to workers injured off the job, but who suffer limitations similar to that of pregnant workers. The decision, therefore, overturns cases which find a distinction between off the job injuries and those incurred on the job. In that sense, the decision has been criticized as conflating disparate treatment type cases (i.e., treated differently on a personal level) and disparate impact type cases (treated badly due to some rule that impacts a broad group of workers). Since, the court specifically adds that to show pretext, an employee can show disparate impact by some employment policy. For example, said the court, a worker could show that a large percentage of non-pregnant workers were accommodated while a large percentage of pregnant workers were not accommodated.

The decision does clears up one area of confusion in finding that yes, pregnant workers are entitled to some sort of accommodation under the right circumstances. See Supreme Court decision here.