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Fourth Circuit Holds Pregnant UPS Employee With Lifting Restrictions Was Not Covered Under ADA When Company Prevented Her From Working With Lifting Restriction

Peggy Young worked for United Parcel Services (UPS) as a delivery truck driver. She became pregnant in 2006 and was given a restriction from her doctor indicating that she should not lift more than 20 pounds for the first 20 twenty weeks of her pregnancy and no more than 10 pounds thereafter. Later her midwife reiterated the 20 pound lifting restriction.

The occupational health manager advised Young that UPS policy would not permit her to work with a 20-pound lifting restriction. Young responded that she seldom lifted more than 20 pounds and that other employees would help her if needed. The company said she had to be able to lift up to 70 pounds, but Young said that she never really had to lift that much weight. She also requested light duty but the company policy limited light duty to those with work-related injuries or who needed accommodation under the ADA.

After Young’s FMLA time expired, she went on an extended unpaid leave of absence, and eventually she lost her medical coverage. Eventually she returned to UPS following her delivery, and she filed a charge with the EEOC on July 23, 2007 alleging a violation of the ADA and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. UPS filed for summary judgment, which the District Court granted, and Young appealed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Among other arguments, Young contended that UPS had a duty to seek additional information from her healthcare provider in order to make their own independent evaluation of her ability to work. The Court disagreed: “Young presents no rationale, compelling or otherwise, for concluding that an employer acts inappropriately in relying on the employee’s own objective medical evidence.”

Young countered that she should have been accommodated under the ADA. The Court again disagreed: “Moreover, we conclude that a pregnant worker subject to a temporary lifting restriction is not similar in her ‘ability or inability to work’ to an employee disabled within the meaning of the ADA or an employee either prevented from operating a vehicle as a result of losing her DOT certification or injured on the job.” The Court held that her lifting restriction was temporary and not a significant restriction on her ability to perform major life activities.

In addition to her ADA argument, Young contended that the actions of UPS also violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). She argued that pregnant workers were not eligible for accommodation while employees who were not pregnant would be eligible for accommodation under certain circumstances. The Court said, “By limiting accommodations to those employees injured on the job, disabled as defined under the ADA, and stripped of their DOT certifications, UPS has crafted a pregnancy-blind policy, and Young does not contend otherwise.” The Court concluded, “We therefore adhere to the majority view that where a policy treats pregnant workers and nonpregnant workers alike, the employer has complied with the PDA.

This case may be found at Young v. UPS, 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 530 (4th Cir. 2013).

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This blog article was researched and written by John H. Geaney, a member of the executive committee and equity partner at the law firm of Capehart Scatchard. The content of the this article is intended to provide general information on the topic presented, and is offered with the understanding that the author is not rendering any legal or professional services or advice. This article is not a substitute for legal advice. Should you require such services, retain competent legal counsel.

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