Light-Duty for Pregnant Employees – The Story Continues

April 28, 2015

On Wednesday, the United States Supreme Court overturned a decision from the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals that granted summary judgment to United Parcel Service dismissing a claim by an employee for pregnancy discrimination. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Court of Appeals decision and kept alive a claim by a pregnant employee that the employee should be able to work a light-duty assignment at the company just like other employees who suffered a work-related injury. The employee claimed pregnancy discrimination when the company refused to allow her to perform a light-duty assignment that others were allowed to perform because of a work-related injury. The case now goes back to the Federal District Court for a full trial on the merits of the claim.

This decision continues the saga regarding pregnancy discrimination and light-duty assignments for a pregnant employee. Many companies have a policy that limits light-duty assignments to those employees that suffer a work-related injury in order to assist the employee in returning to regular duties. The EEOC recently changed its position and declared that it was pregnancy discrimination to prohibit a pregnant employee from performing light-duty assignments just like other employees. This recent U.S. Supreme Court decision seems to support the EEOC Guidelines and now opens the door for more litigation over what type of limited-duty assignment must be given to a pregnant employee. 

While this litigation is being taken under federal regulations, it is still relevant to Wisconsin employers because of the similarity in the state statutes to federal law regarding pregnancy discrimination. Employers will have to watch this case closely and perhaps adjust how they consider the handling of limited-duty work for pregnant employees.

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