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Vol. 41, No. 1 Summer 2015

Employee Relations Law Journal

By: Howard S. Lavin, Elizabeth E. DiMichele

Does the prohibition against pregnancy discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended (“Title VII”) require an employer that accommodates the work limitations of nonpregnant employees also to accommodate the limitations of pregnant employees and, if so, under what circumstances?  Although the law is currently unclear on this point, the U.S. Supreme Court recently granted a petition for a writ of certiorari in a case entitled Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc., the determination of which should provide much needed guidance.   In seeking review of the Fourth Circuit’s decision affirming the dismissal of her claim under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, petitioner Young asserted that the Fourth Circuit’s interpretation, although consistent with view of the Fifth, Seventh and Eleventh Circuits, is in conflict with decisions of the Sixth and Tenth Circuits. 
Significantly, however, the amicus curiae brief of the United States, while asserting that the Fourth Circuit erred, urged the Court not to grant review at this time, in part because Young’s claim would not have fared any better in the Sixth or Tenth Circuit.  So, while the Solicitor General argues that each of the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Tenth and Eleventh Circuits’ standards for determining whether a plaintiff has met her burden of establishing a prima facie case under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, may, indeed, be wrong, he suggests that the time for the Supreme Court to consider that standard is after the 2008 amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”) have had time to take effect, given that they may require employers to accommodate women who are substantially limited as a result of a pregnancy-related impairment.  The Solicitor General also noted that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) is considering issuing new guidance with respect to pregnancy discrimination, which may be relevant to the questions presented by the Young case.  Despite the government’s urging, however, the Supreme Court granted certiorari.

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