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United States Supreme Court Rules on Pregnancy Discrimination Issue

The United States Supreme Court ruled on a pregnancy discrimination issue.

April 05, 2015

(press release: cdklawyers) // Dallas, Texas, United States // Keith Clouse
The United States Supreme Court ruled on a pregnancy discrimination issue. Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc., No. 12-1226, __ U.S. __ (March 25, 2015), available at http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/12-1226_k5fl.pdf. The plaintiff was required to lift up to 70 pounds as part of her job. When she became pregnant, her doctor advised her to lift no more than 20 pounds. Her employer refused to accommodate the lifting restriction. The plaintiff sued, claiming that the employer acted unlawfully in refusing to accommodate her pregnancy-related restriction. The trial court granted summary judgment to the employer, and the intermediate appellate court affirmed.

To prove a disparate-treatment claim of discrimination by utilizing the burden-shifting framework, a plaintiff must show that she was treated differently than other employees. The employer may then show that a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason accounted for the difference in treatment. The plaintiff can rebut that reason by showing it was merely a pretext for discrimination.

Here, the parties disputed which employees should serve as comparators for the plaintiff. The Court held that the proper comparators are others who are similar in their ability or inability to work. Here, for example, the plaintiff could show that the employer accommodated most nonpregnant employees with lifting limitations while categorically failing to accommodate pregnant employees with lifting limitations. The Court reversed the summary judgment and remanded the case.

This article is presented by the Dallas employment attorneys at Clouse Dunn LLP. To speak to an employment law attorney, send an email to debra@clousedunn.com or call (214) 239-2705.