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Workplace discrimination lawsuit heads to Supreme Court

The birth of a child can be one of the happiest moments of a Detroit mother's life. However, happy quickly becomes sad when a mother experiences workplace discrimination due to pregnancy. Although Michigan law prohibits employment discrimination, many workers have experienced it in some form or another.

One such incident that recently garnered significant media attention was that of a woman who worked for United Parcel Service (UPS). According to reports, the woman requested a reassignment to work that did not require heavy lifting due to pregnancy. Instead of agreeing to this minor request, management allegedly asked her to go on unpaid leave.

The woman filed a lawsuit against UPS alleging pregnancy discrimination, citing the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, which states that employers must treat pregnant women in the same manner as they would treat other employees with short-term disabilities. UPS, which allows its employees "light-duty" assignments in the event of on-the-job injuries based on the Americans with Disabilities Act, states that the company is "pregnancy-blind," and, therefore, its actions do not constitute discrimination.

The woman recently filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court. The woman cited major points, including that UPS's actions violate the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and vast differences exist in the way courts across the United States interpret this Act.

Interestingly, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was supposed to issue guidelines on pregnancy accommodation under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act, but with the Supreme Court's ruling on this particular case is still pending. It is likely that the guidelines will be delayed as a result. Currently, 12 states and four U.S. cities have statutes in place that grant special accommodations to pregnant women in the workplace.

In Michigan, employment discrimination on the grounds of race, age, sex, religion or pregnancy, as in this case, often calls for necessary affirmative legal action against an employer. As such, it may be a wise decision for any employee, who has experienced some form of discrimination in his or her workplace, to seek advice from an experienced employment attorney about the best course of action.

Source: Forbes, "Supreme Court Takes Up UPS Pregnancy Discrimination Case," Ashlea Ebeling, July 9, 2014

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