On March 25, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc., holding that the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) requires courts to consider the extent to which an employer’s policy treats pregnant workers less favorably than it treats non-pregnant workers similar in their ability or inability to perform their job duties.
Following up on our recent post regarding pregnancy discrimination developments, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued the Enforcement Guidance: Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues on July 14, 2014. This is the first comprehensive update of the EEOC’s guidance on discrimination against pregnant workers in thirty years, since its 1983 Compliance Manual chapter. One major development in the new Enforcement Guidance is that pregnancy discrimination claims are not limited to the current pregnancy under the PDA – they can be based on “past pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.” Thus, the EEOC will more likely find a causal connection between a past pregnancy and the challenged employment action if there is close timing between the two, however a longer time gap between the pregnancy and the challenged action will not foreclose a finding of pregnancy discrimination.
On the heels of the Hobby Lobby decision in late June, the Supreme Court has signaled that women’s health issues in the workplace will continue to be a central issue by granting a petition for certiorari in Young v. United Parcel Service on July 1, 2014. In Young, the Court will examine whether the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”), which provides that pregnant women “shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes…as other persons…similar in their ability or inability to work,” requires employers to provide work accommodations to pregnant women to the same extent they provide them to other disabled workers. The Court’s review of Young comes at a time when pregnancy discrimination laws are gaining more attention and more traction, and litigation in this area is increasing.
On December 10, 2012, in Veronese v. Lucasfilm Ltd., a California Court of Appeal overturned a Marin County jury’s verdict against Lucasfilm based on its finding that several errors in jury instructions prejudicially affected the verdict. Plaintiff had sued under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) for pregnancy discrimination and related claims when she accepted, but did not start, in a temporary position at Lucasfilm. After eleven days of testimony and three days of deliberation, a jury awarded Veronese a total of $113,800 in damages and the trial court awarded Veronese $1,157,411 in attorneys’ fees. Lucasfilm challenged both the judgment and the fee award. Lucasfilm argued that the trial court judge erred in giving certain instructions proposed by Veronese, failing to give certain instructions proposed by Lucasfilm, and failing to instruct on certain issues submitted to the jury. Notably, this Court of Appeal decision appears to be the first California appellate decision reversing a jury verdict for an employee based on failure to give a business judgment instruction. READ MORE