Bioethics Blogs

Pregnancy discrimination: Indirect discrimination against women? (JPE 2(2))

Guest Post by Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen

Professor Lippert-Rasmussen’s paper on indirect discrimination is part of the latest issue of the JPE

December 3, 2014, the US Supreme Court held its first hearing on the case of a former UPS driver, Peggy Young (Young v UPS, 12-1226): “In 2006, UPS forced Young to take an unpaid leave after refusing to accommodate her doctor’s order that she not lift heavy packages during her pregnancy… Young lost not just her income, but her health insurance as well” (http://www.latimes.com/local/abcarian/la-me-ra-supreme-court-pregnancy-discrimination-20141203-column.html#page=1). While UPS requires delivery drivers “to be able to lift packages as heavy as 70 pounds. Young said she rarely handled anything over 20 pounds and dealt almost exclusively with letters that sat on the passenger seat of her van”. Interestingly, however, at the time UPS also had a policy of providing temporary light-duty work to, but also only to, ”employees who had on-the-job injuries, were disabled under federal law or lost their federal driver certification” (http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/dec/01/ups-employee-pregnancy-discrimination-supreme-court). Before taking her case to the Supreme Court, lower courts had dismissed Young’s lawsuit twice.

The case raises a number of interesting issues from the point of view of applied ethics. Here are three. First, who did UPS discriminate against – women or pregnant women? In support of the latter claim it could be said that women in general satisfy the relevant UPS requirement and that almost a fourth of the women on the US job market do not become pregnant. Still, the relevant requirement leaves men better off on average than women, at least in so far as the good of getting a job as a UPS driver jobs is concerned, and that might support the former claim.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.