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Appellate court hears arguments in pregnancy discrimination case

It has been many decades since "I Love Lucy" broke barriers by allowing Lucille Ball's pregnancy to be shown on television. Since that time, Americans have come to understand that while pregnancy often requires certain employment accommodations, whether the expectant mother works on a television show, in a restaurant or as an executive at a Fortune 500 company, it does not justify treatment characterized as pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.

Nevertheless, pregnancy discrimination claims continue to be filed in workplaces across the nation. Many claims center around wrongful termination because of a pregnancy, improper leave practices or lessening of a capable employee's workload. But what happens when an individual's pregnancy requires reasonable accommodations in favor of a temporarily lighter workload?

A federal appeals court recently heard arguments in the case of a UPS package delivery driver who claims she was discriminated against when the company refused to grant her a light duty assignment for the remainder of her pregnancy. At the point that she requested the assignment, her physician had recommended that she refrain from lifting anything heavier than 20 pounds.

Though UPS admits to accommodating other workers with light duty assignments when these workers are either disabled or lose their drivers' licenses, it refuses to grant the same accommodation to pregnant employees. These pregnant workers are left without jobs and without health insurance.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act protects pregnant workers against such disparate treatment. Hopefully the federal appeals court will honor the letter and spirit of this law and grant this pregnant worker the compensation to which she is entitled.

Source: ACLU, "A Pregnant Worker's Day in Court," Ariela Migdal, Oct. 26, 2012

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