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Media Alerts - Fourth Circuit: Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc., et al.
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February 15, 2013
  Fourth Circuit: Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc., et al.
Headline: UPS Lawfully Denies Opportunities to Employee Because of Pregnancy

Area of Law: Labor and Employment

Issue(s) Presented: Whether UPS impermissibly regarded Young as disabled under the ADA.
Whether the Pregnancy Discrimination Act ("PDA") requires employers to give preferential treatment to an employee in order for her to maintain her employment while pregnant.

Brief Summary: Peggy Young's ability to perform aspects of her job at UPS was affected by a lifting restriction placed on her due to pregnancy. UPS notified Young that she could not continue working with her restriction, and that she was not eligible for "light-duty work" pursuant to UPS's policies. Young alleged that UPS impermissibly regarded her as disabled under the ADA, and that UPS discriminated against her for being pregnant, in violation of the PDA. The court found UPS did not regard Young as disabled or misperceive her ability to work. Likewise, the court concluded that the PDA does not require employers to give pregnant employees preferential treatment, and thus, a policy that treats pregnant and nonpregnant workers alike is aligned with the PDA, even if it causes some hardship to the pregnant employee.

Extended Summary: The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (the "PDA") amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964's definition of discrimination to include discrimination in employment "because or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical expenses." Similarly, the Americans with Disabilities Act (the "ADA") prohibits discrimination against "a qualified individual on the basis of disability." A disability is established by showing either "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities," "a record of such impairment," or "being regarded as having such an impairment."

In this case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit inquired into whether the PDA required employers to provide special accommodations for pregnant employees. Young filed suit against UPS, invoking both the PDA and ADA, as applied to three of UPS's employment policies. These policies required all delivery truck drivers to have the ability to handle and lift packages weighing up to 70 pounds. The policies also only provided alternate work ("light-duty work") to employees who suffered an on-the-job injury. Finally, the policies only provided "inside jobs" to those who had lost their Department of Transportation certification. Prior to her pregnancy, Young was a UPS delivery truck driver. However, once pregnant, Young was informed by her doctor that she should not lift more than twenty pounds for the first twenty weeks of her pregnancy and not more than ten pounds thereafter. After informing her manager, both personally and with a note written by her mid-wife, Young was told she could not work her job at UPS with the stated lifting restriction. Young was also informed that she was ineligible for a "light-duty work" assignment since she had not been injured on the job, was not disabled under the ADA, and had not had her DOT certification revoked. Since Young's restriction did not allege she could not work at all, Young did not qualify for short-term disability benefits either. Young sued alleging discrimination.

The court rejected Young's ADA claim because she could not establish that she had a disability as defined by the ADA. Young then clarified that she was not arguing that her pregnancy qualified her as disabled but rather that UPS regarded her pregnancy-related limitation as a disability and treated her as such by not contacting her doctors to seek more information. The court rejected Young's alternate claim as well. The court concluded that it was reasonable for UPS to require verification that Young had recovered her ability to perform her jobs' duties. The court further found that UPS was not required under the ADA to seek that verification from Young's doctor on its own. The court ultimately found that due to the "manageable" weight restriction and the short duration of the restriction, Young was neither disabled under the meaning of the ADA, nor did UPS treat her as such.

The court next analyzed Young's PDA claim as a sex discrimination claim under Title VII. Young's challenge centered around UPS's "light-duty work" policy, however, the court found the policy to be "pregnancy-blind" and facially neutral. Further, the court clarified that the PDA only requires employers to treat pregnant employees the same as other employees for all employment-related purposes. Additionally, Young argued that a statement made by a manager (that Young was too much of a "liability" to work her job while pregnant) was evidence of discrimination. The court, however, reasoned that in order to sustain an employment discrimination action, that manager would have had to have been the "actual decisionmaker" behind the action. Although inappropriate, and perhaps derogatory, the manager who made the comment had no influence over Young's employment with UPS. Thus, Young failed to establish a case of sex discrimination.

Panel (if known): Judges Wilkinson, Gregory, and Duncan

Date of Issued Opinion: 1/09/13

Docket Number: No. 11-2078

Decided: 1/09/13

Case Alert Author: Samantha Spencer

Counsel (if known): ARGUED: Sharon Fast Gustafson, Arlington, Virginia, for Appellant. Emmett F. McGee, Jr., JACKSON LEWIS, LLP, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellee. ON BRIEF: Jill S. Dis- tler, JACKSON LEWIS, LLP, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellee. Ariela M. Migdal, Lenora M. Lapidus, AMERI- CAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION FOUNDATION, New York, New York; Deborah A. Jeon, ACLU FOUNDATION OF MARYLAND, Baltimore, Maryland, for Amici Curiae.

Author of Opinion: Duncan, J.

Case Alert Supervisor: Professor Renée Hutchins

    Posted By: Renee Hutchins @ 02/15/2013 01:41 PM     4th Circuit  

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