DFLA Urges Supreme Court to Uphold Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnant Women

For Immediate Release

September 12, 2014

Contact: Kristen Day: 202-220-3066


Washington, DC – Democrats For Life of America (DFLA) has joined 22 other pro-life organizations in filing an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief in a U.S. Supreme Court case to support accommodations for pregnant women in the workforce when employers accommodate other employees similar in their ability or inability to work. The case involves a pregnant woman, Paula Young, who requested a temporary accommodation by her employer, United Postal Service (UPS), but was denied even though UPS policy accommodated several similar categories of employees. Young was forced to take an unpaid leave of absence, losing her economic security and her employee health benefits for several months.


“We know that economic pressure is a significant factor in a woman’s decision to choose abortion over childbirth,” said Kristen Day, Executive Director of Democrats For Life of America. “The misinterpretation of this statute by the Court of Appeals could put a woman in the untenable position of having to choose between her economic security and the welfare of herself and her child.” 


The brief was filed in Young v. UPS. DFLA argued that the Court of Appeals erred in its interpretation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978, which requires companies to make the same work accommodations for pregnant women that it makes for other employees “similar in their ability or inability to work.” The brief suggests that the Court of Appeals would allow an employer to refuse a reasonable accommodation to a pregnant woman by applying pregnancy to the lowest possible status.


“UPS essentially is saying that pregnancy is not important enough of a condition to provide an accommodation even when several other categories are accommodated, and the Court of Appeals agreed,” said Day. “This interpretation seriously weakens the effect of the PDA. Pregnancy is an important feature of human life—one that ought to be treated at least equally with other conditions that an employer accommodates.”


In this case, Paula Young requested a “light duty” assignment per the instructions of her obstetrician. Although UPS provided similar accommodations to persons injured on the job, disabled workers, and those who lost their commercial licenses for medical reasons, UPS argued that it did not have to provide accommodations in this case because it does not provide accommodations to persons injured while not at work.


“The PDA’s text and its legislative record make clear its intent that pregnant women who are able to work must be permitted to work on the same condition as other employees,” said Day. “The law specifies that employers must review the extent of the ability to work, not the source of where the condition took place. Allowing companies to use the source of the condition to differentiate pregnancy negates the anti-discrimination provision of the PDA.”


The brief argues that the Court of Appeals’ decision not only is at odds with the text and structure of the PDA but also blocks the PDA from addressing the very problem Congress sought to solve.


“When the PDA passed in 1978, pro-life groups and members of Congress supported it on the ground that a woman’s fundamental right to have children and raise a family should be protected against pressure from workplace discrimination,” said Tom Berg, a constitutional-law scholar at the University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota) and a Democrats For Life board member, who helped write and file the brief. “Today, pro-life groups have again argued that the PDA should be interpreted to give women meaningful protection.”  


You can read the brief here.



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