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Young, Pregnant, and At Work

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November 19, 2014

Written by Kelsey Ryland, URGE Law & Policy Fellow

The Supreme Court will hear the case of Peggy Young v. United Parcel Service (UPS) on December 3.  Kadijah wrote about the case for us, but in short: Ms. Young, a pregnant UPS employee, was instructed by her doctor to request light duty, but UPS refused to accommodate her request. UPS routinely accommodates other workers with injuries or other limitations. The 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act should protect workers in this situation, but two lower courts have supported UPS. Now the Supreme Court will hear the case and determine whether or not the Pregnancy Discrimination Act has enough force to protect pregnant workers.

Protecting pregnant workers is a reproductive justice issue that hugely impacts young people. This isn’t the 1950s anymore and most of us will need and want to work before, during, and after our pregnancies.  Living in a single earner partnership is not only unfeasible, but not necessarily desirable for many people in our generation. We know that only 1 in 4 households in the US is a married, heterosexual couple rising biological children, so most of us are not and will not be pregnant or parent within a “traditional” marriage. Employment laws that force workers to choose between their job and a healthy pregnancy are unrealistic and imply that pregnant workers aren’t welcome in the workplace.

Young people also disproportionately work in service industry positions which are seen as expendable.  Rather than accommodate a pregnant worker’s needs in one of these positions, it is easier to simply let them go — that’s why legal protections to allow someone to continue working when they are pregnant are so critical. All workers deserve accommodations that allow them to take care of themselves and their pregnancies.  This means employers must be required to make reasonable accommodations that allow workers to maintain employment throughout pregnancy.

Recently, the Supreme Court has handed down decisions that erode protections to basic reproductive healthcare, like the Hobby Lobby decision. There is little reason to believe that the Supreme Court will rule to protect the rights of pregnant workers in the Young v. UPS case. Advocates are building support for the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act in order to ensure that if the Supreme Court won’t protect the economic security of young and pregnant workers, we will.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) would ensure that workers no longer endure what Ms. Young experienced. The Act mandates that a pregnant worker must receive reasonable accommodations from their employer. A pregnant worker cannot be forced to accept an accommodation that they do not want. A pregnant employee cannot be required to take leave if a reasonable accommodation is available. No one can be denied an employment opportunity because they would require an accommodation due to their pregnancy.

The protections included in the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act matter to young people and workers of all ages, because our economic security and ability to provide for our families depends on our ability to keep our jobs and maintain healthy pregnancies.

If you want to show your support for the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, sign our petition to Congress!

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