On March 25, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Young v. UPS. The majority opinion did not directly answer the question of whether employers must provide light duty and other workplace accommodations to pregnant employees in the same manner they provide accommodations to employees who are injured on the job. However, the Supreme Court did provide a framework for pregnant employees challenging workplace accommodation policies and practices under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
The Court held in a 6-3 decision, that a pregnant employee can establish a prima facie case of disparate treatment by showing: (1) she belongs to a protected class; (2) she sought an accommodation; (3) the employer did not accommodate her; and (4) the employer accommodated others similar in their ability or inability to work. Once these elements are established, an employer has the burden of production to proffer a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for denying the accommodation. This reason must be more than an employer’s claim that it is more expensive or less convenient to accommodate pregnant women. If the employer is able to establish there was a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason, the burden shifts back to the employee to show the employer’s reason is pretextual.