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Supreme Court to Consider Work Rules for Pregnant Employees

The case centers around a UPS worker who had to take an unpaid leave of absence when she could no longer lift packages weighing 20 or more pounds.

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.