After a female UPS employee became pregnant, her doctor restricted her from lifting more than 20 pounds. Because UPS required its drivers to be able to lift 70 pounds, UPS told the woman that she could not work while she was pregnant. The woman filed suit against UPS, alleging that it had discriminated against her on the basis of pregnancy.

UPS policy accommodated similar weight restrictions for employees who suffered on-the-job injuries, those covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and those who had lost their Department of Transportation certifications. According to UPS, pregnancy did not fall under any of those categories, and company representatives argued that they could deny her the same accommodations.

The woman filed suit under Title VII, a federal law that prohibits discrimination against a person on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth and associated medical conditions. The woman’s lawsuit was dismissed and she appealed. The United States Supreme Court heard the case and ruled in her favor, reinstating the lawsuit.

In order to establish a claim for pregnancy discrimination, a worker must show that: (1) she is pregnant or has a medical condition associated with pregnancy, (2) she sought accommodation, (3) the employer did not accommodate her, and (4) the employer did accommodate others “similar in their ability or inability to work.”  In other words, if an employer would grant an accommodation to an employee who has a limitation for some other reason (such as disability or illness), it may not deny that same accommodation to someone if the reason she needs it is because she is pregnant. In this case, the woman was able to prove that UPS provided more favorable treatment to at least some nonpregnant employees.