The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to consider how much protection a federal law gives to pregnant women in the workplace. The case centers around Peggy Young, a UPS driver in Landover, Maryland, who became pregnant in October 2006 and gave her supervisors a note from her midwife recommending that she not lift packages weighing more than 20 pounds during her pregnancy. UPS said it could not make such an accommodation, and she was required to take an unpaid leave of absence, during which she had no health insurance. She returned to work two months after giving birth.
"What started as a very happy pregnancy became one of the most stressful times of my life," she told the National Women's Law Center in Washington. She sued UPS, claiming it violated a federal law that requires employers to treat pregnant workers the same as those who are not pregnant but are "similar in their ability or inability to work."
Two lower courts ruled in favor of UPS, finding that the company's action did not amount to discrimination against pregnant women. Instead, the courts said, UPS gave work accommodations to employees who were hurt on the job, had a permanent impairment, or were ineligible for a commercial vehicle license. Such a policy, they ruled, was neutral on the issue of pregnancy.
First published July 1 2014, 7:15 AM
Pete Williams is an NBC News correspondent based in Washington, D.C. He has been covering the Justice Department and the U.S. Supreme Court since March 1993. Williams was also a key reporter on the Microsoft anti-trust trial and Judge Jackson's decision.
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Prior to joining NBC, Williams served as a press official on Capitol Hill for many years. In 1986 he joined the Washington, D.C. staff of then Congressman Dick Cheney as press secretary and a legislative assistant. In 1989, when Cheney was named Assistant Secretary of Defense, Williams was appointed Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs. While in that position, Williams was named Government Communicator of the Year in 1991 by the National Association of Government Communicators.
A native of Casper, Wyo. and a 1974 graduate of Stanford University, Williams was a reporter and news director at KTWO-TV and Radio in Casper from 1974 to 1985. Working with the Radio-Television News Directors Association, for which he served as a member of its board of directors, he successfully lobbied the Wyoming Supreme Court to permit broadcast coverage of its proceedings and twice sued Wyoming judges over pre-trial exclusion of reporters from the courtroom. For these efforts, he received a First Amendment Award from the Society of Professional Journalists.