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Monday, May 18, 2015

Young v. UPS: SCOTUS Addresses Title VII Disparate Treatment Pregnancy Discrimination Action

In Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc., ___U.S. ___ (3/25/15), the plaintiff worked as a part-time driver for UPS. When she became pregnant, her doctor restricted her lifting activities, which were required for her position. UPS told Young that she could not work as a driver while under a lifting restriction and did not qualify for a temporary alternative work assignment.

Young sued under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which provides: "women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes . . . as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work . . . ." 42 U. S. C. §2000e(k). The District Court granted summary judgment for UPS, finding that Young could not show intentional discrimination, nor could she make out a prima facie case under McDonnell Douglas, and in any case, UPS had a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its actions. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, and the US Supreme Court granted certiorari.

The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Young had created a triable dispute of material fact under McDonnell Douglas as to "whether UPS provided more favorable treatment to at least some employees whose situation cannot reasonably be distinguished from Young’s." Young created this triable issue by introducing evidence that UPS accommodated (1) drivers who had become disabled on the job, (2) those who had lost their Department of Transportation certifications, and (3) those who suffered from a disability covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

The Fourth Circuit did not consider the combined effects of these policies, nor did it consider the strength of UPS’ justifications for each when combined. That is, why, when the employer accommodated so many, could it not accommodate pregnant women as well?
The Court did not consider whether Young created a triable issue of fact as to whether UPS's reasons for its conduct were pretextual. 

Justice Breyer wrote the opinion, with Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan joining. Alito concurred in the judgment. Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas dissented. The opinion is available here

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