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December 4th, 2014

Peggy Young in front of the Supreme Court with her attorney. Photo licensed: AP/Susan Walsh

The Supreme Court is in the process of deciding an important issue that could impact millions of women and families in the U.S.

The case is about Peggy Young, a Virginia woman who worked for UPS (the package delivery service), when she became pregnant in 2006.

Her doctor told her that during her pregnancy she would not be allowed to lift anything over 20 pounds. That’s tough to do when your job is to deliver packages.

Ms. Young had given her UPS bosses her doctor’s note and asked if she could handle lighter packages or do a different job while she was pregnant. UPS said no.

She couldn’t do her job so Ms. Young felt she had no choice but to take a leave of absence (leave her job temporarily) and didn’t get paid during this time. She sued. Her case has now gone all the way to the Supreme Court.

There’s a  federal law that you can’t discriminate against pregnant women  in the workplace which is what’s at issue in the case.

That law states that “if an employee is temporarily unable to perform her job because of her pregnancy, the employer must treat her the same as any other temporarily disabled employee.”

Being pregnant is not a temporary disability, of course.  But the problem is that UPS had one set of standards for employees who were injured on the job, and one for those who got injured away from work.

If you got hurt on the job at UPS they would make special arrangements for you to work in a more comfortable and safe way until you healed.

But if you got hurt on your own time then no special arrangements would be made because it was your own fault.

Ms. Young’s pregnancy was being treated the same as “a male driver who injured a knee in a weekend softball game” as the Los Angeles Times put it.

Having a child was looked upon as if she had a “temporary disability” … that she had caused. And, in the meantime, she wasn’t able to make money to support herself or the child she was bringing into the world.

Peggy Young now has three children. And UPS has changed their policy to accommodate pregnant women in their workplace, but the outcome of this case will be important for women and families in America.

Women are the only money makers, or make most of the money, in 40% of households with children in the U.S. (the majority of these being single mothers), according to Pew Research’s Social and Demographic Trends study . So this decision will impact many people, possibly for generations to come, and will have begun with Ms. Young’s first child.

How do you think the Supreme Court should decide?

This story reminds many people of Lily Ledbetter’s story, you can read HTE’s story related to that and Equal Pay for Equal Work here .

To learn more about how the Supreme Court works, click here for an explanation by Kids Discover .

Here’s the actual transcript of the Supreme Court’s case.

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