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Employment disputes: pregnant woman sues employer

As residents of Detroit, Michigan, probably know, every employer is required to offer employees medical benefits through insurance, for instance. While employment law necessitates that employers compensate employees for any on-the-job accidents, medical insurance can also be utilized for good faith payments for certain conditions outside of work, such as disabilities that affect the employee's ability to carry out appointed tasks to the fullest extent.

Disability benefits are also extended to pregnant women as provided by the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which identifies maternity as a temporary "disability," due to which an employed woman may not be able to perform certain aspects of her job. However, as a case now being heard by the U.S. Supreme Court demonstrates employers and employees may not always agree on the implementation of this act. This woman says she was fired because she could not meet certain employment conditions due to being pregnant and lost health insurance coverage for close to a year.

The woman, who is represented by a University of Michigan law professor, contends that she was fired because the company's policy treated her pregnant state unfairly, although the condition did not prevent her from carrying out her regular duties. Further, as her lawyer pointed out, employees with other disabilities continued to be employed with lighter workloads, which suggested that sacking the pregnant woman was a case of pregnancy discrimination. The woman has sought compensation for lost wages, including insurance coverage, apart from damages.

Her employer stated that employees who were disabled while off-duty have not been accommodated, and this treatment has been extended to the pregnant woman as well. On the other hand, the employer's disability policy has been modified since the filing of the lawsuit, with the newer version making explicit arrangements for pregnant women in line with the 2008 Americans with Disabilities Act. The court's opinion on the matter may affect women employees everywhere in the United States, including Michigan.

Source: NPR.org, "Did UPS Discriminate Against A Pregnant Worker By Letting Her Go?," Nina Totenberg, Dec. 3, 2014

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