(Albany, N.Y.)- The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the pregnancy discrimination case Young v. United Parcel Service (UPS) Dec. 4, and hundreds rallied outside the courthouse, including representatives from the Women’s Equality Coalition, on behalf of Peggy Young, the petitioner in the case.
The case revolves around the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, passed by Congress in 1978 in response to a Supreme Court ruling which found pregnant women were not guaranteed any special protections under laws that prohibit sex discrimination.
According to Young, she had been placed onto unpaid leave from her job as an “air driver’ for UPS, after she requested a doctor-advised reprieve from heavy lifting during her pregnancy, which caused her to lose medical benefits from the company.
UPS reportedly denied Young’s request because of a company-wide policy, which stated that light-duty work would not be given to workers with certain medical conditions, such as pregnancy.
In light of the impending decision in the UPS case, the Women’s Equality Coalition, comprised of over 850 businesses and organizations across New York State, said it has renewed its call to state lawmakers to address critical gaps in New York state’s laws, like the failure to protect pregnant women in the workplace.
“For nearly two years, the state legislature has failed to adopt legislation that breaks down barriers to equality including improving access to housing and orders of protection for victims of domestic violence; implementing measures to combat sex trafficking; tackling sexual harassment and discrimination; making sure that pregnant women are able to stay healthy on-the-job; and securing women’s access to reproductive healthcare,” the organization said in a statement.
“Women in New York face unfair treatment in the workplace and barriers to equality every day,” said Corinne Carey, Assistant Legislative Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “This needs to be the first thing state lawmakers take action on in 2015. And if there is a special session, then women’s equality should be at the top of the agenda.”
The WEC also said several states have begun passing measures to ensure reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers who need them, and a similar law in New York City went into effect earlier this year, but the rest of New York state lags behind, leaving those outside the five boroughs without explicit statutory protection.
“Unfortunately, Peggy Young’s story is not an isolated instance, and no woman should have to suffer the financial hardship she endured simply to maintain a healthy pregnancy,” said Dina Bakst, co-founder and co-president of A Better Balance. “We see this problem all the time in our free legal clinic for New Yorkers, pregnant women are pushed out of their jobs when they just need a modest accommodation to stay healthy and employed. We are calling for immediate state legislative action in New York because we see firsthand the economic consequences that occur when women are pushed out of their jobs right when they need income the most to support their families.”