Civil Liberties & the Supreme Court

Civil Liberties & the Supreme Court


Civil Liberties & the Supreme Court

In 1978, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The purpose of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act is to ensure that employers are not discriminating on the basis of pregnancy (“The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978”, n.d.). Both the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act played a role in the civil liberties case of Young v. United Parcel Service. The ruling of this case by the Supreme Court has been really important in ensuring that pregnant individuals, along with those who have given birth, are treated equally to those with disabilities.

Peggy Young was a delivery driver for the United Parcel Service (UPS) when she became pregnant is 2006. The medical practitioner for Young instructed her to not lift more than twenty pounds while working, but UPS requires employees to lift up to seventy pounds. Rather than providing accommodations to Young while she was pregnant, UPS forced Young to take an unpaid leave of absence, since she had used her family medical leave. Since Young was forced into taking an extended unpaid leave of absence, she ultimately lost her medical coverage (“Young v. United Parcel Services, Inc”, 2019).

When Peggy Young brought a federal lawsuit against UPS, UPS continued to argue that their decision to not accommodate Young’s needs was non-discriminatory and followed their company policy. UPS argued that their company policy did not take pregnancy into account when it came to making accommodations for their employees (Morris, 2015). Young claimed that UPS worked to ensure they upheld the Americans with Disabilities Act by accommodating the needs of disabilities requiring lighter forms of work. Employees that had disabilities with limitations were provided driving routes that were easier along with lighter loads. Young showed UPS policies that stated accommodations would be made for employees injured on the job, had disabilities covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, and employees who lost their Department of Transportation certificates (“Supreme Court of the United States”, 2014). Two lower courts had sided with UPS on this case, but the Supreme Court disagreed with these lower courts findings (Morris, 2015).

Though the Supreme Court was in Young’s favor, they did not agree with her interpretation of the law. Young believed that employers must accommodate pregnant women when they are providing accommodations to non-pregnant employees (Morris, 2015). The Supreme Court felt that Congress did not intend for the Pregnancy Discrimination Act to grant pregnant workers an unconditional most favored nation status (“Supreme Court of the United States”, 2014). The reason the Supreme Court got involved with this case is for the reason of it being a civil rights case, as the Pregnancy Discrimination Act is part of the Civil Rights Act under the Bill of Rights.

The main purpose for the creation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was to prevent sex discrimination on the basis of pregnancy (“Supreme Court of the United States”, 2014). Under this Act, an employer cannot refuse hire to someone for having pregnancy related conditions. The employer is also unable to single out pregnant employees or pregnancy related conditions. If an employee is unable to perform job duties temporarily, the employer is then required to treat her the same as any other temporarily disabled employee (“Facts About Pregnancy Discrimination”, n.d.). Some examples of this would be the employer providing light duty, modifying tasks, disability leave, or even leave without pay. In 2008, Congress updated the definition of “disability” under the ADA to make clear that physical or mental impairments that limit someone’s ability to lift, stand, or bend are covered under ADA disabilities (“Supreme Court of the United States”, 2014).

The case of Young v. United Parcel Service is important because Peggy Young’s situation is not an isolated one. Unfortunately, it seems to be common that pregnant women need to ask for accommodations, but are often denied by their employer, thus resulting in these women having to take unpaid leave of absence. With pregnancy accommodations becoming more complex, there are many lawmakers that feel there needs to be some clarity when it comes to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. It is important that both employees and employers understand the requirements under any pregnancy accommodation law, so there is no confusion on what is or is not covered. Most states that have passed these pregnancy accommodation laws have decreased in their number of discrimination claims filed (Morris, 2015). Women comprise of nearly half of the workforce today, and it is likely that the majority of these women are going to become pregnant during their working life. With knowing this, it is crucial for there to be pregnancy accommodation laws in place that are clear to all parties involved.


The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978(n.d.). Retrieved from 

“Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc.” Oyez, Accessed 20 Apr. 2019. 

Morris, L. (2015). What Young vs. UPS Means for Pregnant Workers and Their Bosses. Retrieved from 

Supreme Court of the United States(2014). Retrieved from 

Facts About Pregnancy Discrimination(n.d.). Retrieved from