RESPONDENT: United Parcel Service, Inc.
LOCATION: UPS Facility
DOCKET NO.: 12-1226
DECIDED BY: Roberts Court (2010-2016)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
CITATION: 575 US (2015)
GRANTED: Jul 01, 2014
ARGUED: Dec 03, 2014
DECIDED: Mar 25, 2015
Caitlin J. Halligan - for the respondent
Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. - Solicitor General, Department of Justice, for the United States as amicus curiae supporting the petitioner
Samuel R. Bagenstos - for the petitioner
Facts of the case
Peggy Young was employed as a delivery driver for the United Parcel Service (UPS). In 2006, she requested a leave of absence in order to undergo in vitro fertilization. The procedure was successful and Young became pregnant. During her pregnancy, Young's medical practitioners advised her to not lift more than twenty pounds while working. UPS's employee policy requires their employees to be able to lift up to seventy pounds. Due to Young's inability to fulfill this work requirement, as well as the fact that she had used all her available family/medical leave, UPS forced Young to take an extended, unpaid leave of absence. During this time she eventually lost her medical coverage. Young gave birth in April 2007 and resumed working at UPS thereafter.
Young sued UPS and claimed she had been the victim of gender-and disability-based discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. UPS moved for summary judgment and argued that Young could not show that UPS's decision was based on her pregnancy or that she was treated differently than a similarly situated co-worker. Furthermore, UPS argued it had no obligation to offer Young accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act because Young's pregnancy did not constitute a disability. The district court dismissed Young's claim. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed.
Does the Pregnancy Discrimination Act require an employer to provide the same work accommodations to an employee with pregnancy-related work limitations as to employees with similar, but non-pregnancy related, work limitations?
Media for Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc.Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 03, 2014 in Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc.
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - March 25, 2015 in Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc.
John G. Roberts, Jr.:
Justice Breyer has our opinion this morning in Case 12-1226, Young v. United Parcel Service.
Stephen G. Breyer:
Peggy Young is a driver for the United Parcel Service.
She became pregnant.
She was told by her doctors that she should not lift more than 20 pounds.
UPS said that she couldn't drive while she was under that lifting restriction and Young sued UPS claiming that because they wouldn't accommodate her, UPS had violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
UPS defended on the ground that it accommodated only certain employees, those who had sustained on-the-job injuries who were disabled within the meaning of the American with Disabilities Act or who had loss their Department of Transportation certificates.
Young did not fall into any of those categories, so she didn't get accommodated.
That did not reflect according to UPS any intent to discriminate against pregnant women.
The Lower Courts thought UPS was right.
They granted UPS summary judgment, and we said that we would review that.
Now, the difficulty on the review is we have to interpret the Second Clause of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, an Act that was passed in response to a case that this Court decided, General Electric v. Gilbert, where the court, what had been challenged was an employer's insurance policy that covered accidents and diseases but not pregnancy.
Well, this Court said that's okay, but the Congress wanted to reverse that by making clear that Title VII's prohibition against sex discrimination includes discrimination based on pregnancy.
And then after doing that it says in the Act, employers must treat “women affected by pregnancy the same for all employment related purposes as other persons not so affected," in other words, not pregnant, "but similar in their ability or inability to work.”
Now, that sounds simple, but it isn't so simple.
The case before us asks us to identify the other similarly restricted persons that you are supposed to compare the pregnant woman with.
If they include any other employee whom the company accommodates, then a company would have to accommodate every pregnant employee if it accommodated just a handful of non-pregnant employees.
So suppose that somebody had a lifting limitation because of a special extra-hazardous duty, and those are the only ones that were accommodated, or the President of the company gets a chauffeured car if he hurts his back, something like that.
I understand the point.
But you see, we do not think that Congress had this kind of most favorite nation treatment in mind when it passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
On the other hand, the Second Clause of the Act, it must have been there to do something; it cannot have been intended simply to include pregnancy discrimination within the definition of sex discrimination because the First Clause of the Act already did that.
So what did it do?
We conclude that a plaintiff such as Young, who claims that her employer intentionally treated her differently due to pregnancy, can, first of all, make out a prima facie case by showing she was pregnant, her employer didn't accommodate her, and her employer did accommodate others suffering from a similar restriction.
Then the employer can try to justify its refusal by relying on a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for not accommodating her, but those reasons cannot ordinarily consist of a claim that it's more expensive or less convenient to add pregnant women to the categories of those accommodated; that isn't good enough.
Then the plaintiff could show that some other reason the employer gives is a pretext by showing that the employer's policies do accommodate a large percent of non-pregnant workers and, at the same time, failed to accommodate a large percent of pregnant workers that imposes a significant burden on pregnant women, and that the employer's reasons are simply not strong enough to justify the burden it's being imposed, but, rather, the jury could infer intentional discrimination given the nature of the reason and the burden that's being imposed.
In light of our interpretation of the Act and the facts in Peggy Young's case, the Lower Courts, in our opinion, should not have granted summary judgment to UPS.
We accordingly remand this case for further proceedings.
Justice Alito has filed a concurring opinion.
Justice Scalia filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justices Kennedy and Thomas joined.
Justice Kennedy also filed a separate dissenting opinion.