I’m very pleased to tell others about a “friend of the court brief” brief, filed in the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday by Democrats for Life of America (DFLA) and 22 other pro-life organizations in Young v. United Parcel Service, an important case involving the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (the PDA). The brief, which supports the pregnant employee who filed suit against UPS, is by pro-life organizations from across the political spectrum, from Concerned Women for America and the Southern Baptists to Feminists for Nonviolent Choices and DFLA. Here is the DFLA news release summarizing the case (and also linking to the brief). I worked on the brief on behalf of DFLA.
The filing of the brief makes important statements that are crucial in our society, polarized as it is over the “life” issue and how to address it. In this, a variety of pro-life groups with different missions, who disagree on other things, have come together to emphasize that supporting pregnant women is a fundamentally pro-life position. I suspect that, in our polarized atmosphere, some people may be surprised that a bunch of pro-life groups have filed to support working women—so please spread the news!
The case involves Peggy Young, a driver for UPS who became pregnant and, based on the doctor’s note concerning lifting restrictions, sought to be switched to “light duty” work for the remaining few months of her pregnancy. UPS had provided such an accommodation for several significant categories of employees, including those injured on the job, those with disabilities, and those who had lost their commercial driving license for various medical reasons—but it refused to accommodate Young. She was forced to take an unpaid leave and lost her employer-provided health insurance for several months. Young sued under the PDA, which requires that pregnant women be treated the same as other employees “similar in their ability or inability to work.” Although UPS had made the accommodations mentioned above, the lower courts ruled against Young because there were other categories of employees UPS had not accommodated (e.g. off-the-job injuries); essentially, the court said that pregnancy was not discriminated against if it was treated no worse than those and was not ”singled out” for denial. Young is seeking reversal in the Supreme Court.
The case raises an important issue concerning the effectiveness of the PDA’s protection for pregnant employees, since many employers make accommodations for some but not all employees with physical limitations. The pro-life organizations’ brief argues that pregnancy should be treated as well as conditions the employer deems important enough to accommodate, not as poorly as conditions the employer refuses to accommodate. The brief points to the background of the PDA, which had support in 1978 from pro-life groups and pro-life members of Congress. Their rationale was that protecting pregnant women from discrimination reduces pressure on economically vulnerable women to abort their children, and helps support the fundamental right to bear children and raise a family. The brief makes those very same arguments.
Cross-posted (with minor changes) at Mirror of Justice