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Young v. United Parcel Serv., Inc.

August 5, 2020

Employee brought an action against her employer, UPS, alleging that she was the victim of pregnancy discrimination in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).  The Plaintiff had been a part-time delivery driver, whom the company expected to lift up to 70 pounds in the scope of her position.

The United States District Court for the District of Maryland granted the employer’s motion for summary judgment, and the employee appealed, asserting various violations of the statute and theories of discrimination.  The Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that the employee had not presented evidence of discrimination.  The court held that the evidence showed the employer did not regard the pregnant employee as disabled, nor was she disabled in fact.  The employee had provided the employer with a medical note restricting her lifting capacity to not more than 20 pounds due to pregnancy.  Merely having a lifting restriction and being pregnant did not render the employee disabled within the ADA.  Rather, the employer considered her to be unable to perform a specific facet of her job.  Thus, the employer did not “regard her” as disabled, nor was she disabled in fact.

The court also held that the employer was not obligated to provide an accommodation since the employee was not disabled in fact, and did not qualify for an accommodation under the ADA on the basis of her pregnancy.  Merely having a lifting restriction was not a substantial limitation on major life activities, and federal courts have held with near unanimity that pregnancy is not a disability.  The court further held that the employer’s policy of not providing light duty for pregnant employees was not discriminatory, since the policy allowed light duty assignments only to those employees injured on-the-job or suffering a work-related disability under the ADA.  As such, the policy was gender neutral and pregnancy-blind.  In ruling on a motion for reconsideration, the court also held that even though the employee informed her employer that she was not strictly limited to the lifting capacity in the doctor’s note, the employer was not required to second-guess the restriction, or conduct its own inquiry of the employee’s actual capacity.