Law Professors File Supreme Court Brief for Pro-life Groups Supporting Working Pregnant Women

Two professors from the University of St. Thomas School of Law are among the primary drafters and organizers of an amicus brief filed Thursday with the U. S. Supreme Court on behalf of a part-time UPS driver who lost seven months of wages and her medical insurance when the company refused to accommodate the lifting restrictions her doctor recommended during pregnancy.

Professors Teresa Stanton Collett and Tom Berg were counsel on the brief, which includes 23 pro-life organizations in support of petitioner Peggy Young in Young v. UPS. Among the groups advocating for working pregnant women are the University of St. Thomas Prolife Center, which is overseen by Collett, and Democrats for Life of America, for which Berg is a board member. A third St. Thomas law professor, Elizabeth Schiltz, also made contributions to the brief.

The brief’s authors argue that the Pregnancy Discrimination Act should be broadly construed to protect women from having to choose between their job and their unborn child.

The case centers on Young, who requested a light-duty assignment or assistance by another driver in delivering heavier packages during her pregnancy, when her doctor recommended she lift no more than 20 pounds. UPS declined to accommodate Young’s request, even though the company provided similar accommodations to drivers with limitations due to on-the-job injuries, disabilities, or the temporary loss of driving privileges, in most cases due to illness.

Young v. UPS seeks to decide whether the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act requires an employer to accommodate a pregnant woman when that employer accommodates other workers having the same ability or inability to work.

The trial court and Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that UPS did not have to accommodate Young because the company did not accommodate every other worker who had lifting restrictions, but the amicus brief argues that this is not the correct way to interpret the act. The question is not whether an employer accommodates every worker with similar limitations, but rather whether the employer accommodates any worker with similar ability or inability to work.

Once an accommodation is made for one reason, the brief argues that the Pregnancy Discrimination Act requires pregnant woman to be given the same accommodation.

The case is scheduled to be argued Dec. 3.