Supervisor’s take-home: Don’t forget that accurate job descriptions can help you determine whether you can or cannot accommodate a pregnant crew member.
What happened: After she became pregnant, a woman asked her manager to let her work the day shift rather than the night shift. The supervisor agreed to the arrangement on a temporary basis. A short time later, the woman submitted a note from her doctor stating that she couldn’t lift more than 10 pounds, bend, kneel, or squat.
What people did: The employer put the woman on unpaid leave for the duration of her pregnancy. The decision was based on a comparison of her doctor’s restrictions with her job description, which said that workers in her position had to be able to bend, squat, kneel and carry up to 50 pounds.
Legal challenge: The woman sued for pregnancy discrimination, arguing that she was forced to take unpaid leave that she never requested. She said the employer could’ve accommodated her pregnancy by letting her continue to work the day shift.
Result: The company won. The court said the woman wasn’t discriminated against because of her pregnancy. The judge noted that the woman was unable to perform several essential functions of her job, such as bending, squatting, kneeling and lifting up to 50 pounds, based on the limitations imposed by her own doctor.
The court also pointed out that the job description for her position was the same for the day shift, so the company couldn’t have moved her to her preferred shift without running afoul of her own doctor’s medical restrictions.
The skinny: Women suing for pregnancy discrimination rarely prevail in court by insisting that their employer should’ve ignored their own doctors’ medical recommendations.
Cite: Oquendo v. Costco Wholesale Corp., U.S. Court of Appeals 1, No. 20-1632, 4/29/21.
(From the May 28, 2021, issue of HR Manager’s Legal Alert for Supervisors. To start your no-obligation trial subscription to the publication right now, please click here.)