A driver for United Parcel Service (UPS) in New York has complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), alleging that her employer unlawfully discriminated against her when she was pregnant. She has the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which filed the complaint on her behalf, asserting violations of state and federal anti-discrimination law. Pregnancy discrimination remains a difficult problem, as it can involve discrimination based on gender, a temporary disability, or a combination of the two. The law relating to pregnancy discrimination as a disability is not nearly as well-settled as gender discrimination law. New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo is currently proposing legislation that would expand protections for pregnant women in the state.
The ACLU published an account by the complainant, Julie Desantis-Mayer, in January 2013, in which she described her experience after telling her employer about her pregnancy. She states that she worked at UPS for almost a decade, beginning as a part-time employee and advancing to a full-time driver position. She claims that, prior to her pregnancy, the company allowed her to perform light-duty tasks, including after she suffered an injury on the job in January 2012. When she informed her manager of her pregnancy, however, she claims that she was told that no light-duty positions were available. Her doctor had reportedly instructed her not to lift anything heavier than twenty-five pounds, requiring a lighter-duty assignment.
UPS allegedly continued to tell her the same thing every time she requested light duty, even though, she claims, the company provided temporary light-duty assignments for other employees for non-pregnancy-related reasons. Employees who suffered injuries received light duty, as did a driver who had his license suspended. Desantis-Mayer also says that a secretary at the company resigned at about the same time she became pregnant, and that she requested a transfer to that job. She claims that her supervisor told her “he didn’t want to set a precedent of making accommodations for pregnant workers.” The company eventually put her on unpaid leave, which she claims cost her about $60,000.
In her complaint to the EEOC, Desantis-Mayer alleges that UPS violated both state and federal law. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include pregnancy discrimination as a distinct form of gender discrimination. The New York State Human Rights Law also prohibits pregnancy discrimination as a form of gender discrimination.
The question for the EEOC is likely to be whether UPS treated Desantis-Mayer differently from other employees because of her gender, or because of the temporary disability created by her pregnancy. We recently wrote about a Fourth Circuit decision finding that UPS did not unlawfully discriminate against a pregnant employee by refusing to allow her to return to work until after the birth, because the company based the decision on her ability to fulfill her job duties, not her gender. Federal disability law has unfortunately not caught up with anti-discrimination law in the area of pregnancy discrimination, and it does not include pregnancy among the types of conditions that require accommodations from employers. Governor Cuomo has proposed a Women’s Equality Act that would include provisions to “stop pregnancy discrimination once and for all,” but it remains just a proposal.
The New York City pregnancy discrimination attorneys of Phillips & Associates represent employees, former employees, and job seekers in the New York City area who have experienced unlawful employment discrimination or retaliation. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431.
More Blog Posts:
Pregnancy Discrimination Lawsuit Brought by EEOC Settles for $20,000, New York Employment Attorney Blog, March 18, 2013
Pregnant Woman Sues Former Employer, Claiming It Fired Her for Engaging in Premarital Sex, New York Employment Attorney Blog, March 8, 2013
Lawsuit Claims New York Hotel Denied Manager Maternity Leave After She Gave Birth in a Guest Room, New York Employment Attorney Blog, January 9, 2013
Photo credit: By Andrew Bossi (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons.