I’ve worked at United Parcel Service (UPS) for almost 10 years. Initially I got this job because I needed a part-time job with benefits while attending college and UPS seemed like an ideal place to work. Reality set in nine years later when I became pregnant.
At the time of my pregnancy I was classified as a full-time driver. The work that a driver does is extremely demanding, and many of those hired don’t actually last. Being a driver is strenuous and physically exhausting. During the busy season I work up to 14 hours a day under harsh conditions, and during the summer rush, the size and weight of the packages explode.
Upon learning about my pregnancy I informed my manager, who was not sympathetic at all. I requested a light duty position on numerous occasions and was told there were none available. I found this hard to believe. For instance, in January of 2012 I was injured on the job and was given light duty that consisted of washing windows and secretarial work; I would have been happy to do either of these jobs during my pregnancy.
UPS employee Julie Mayer and her new daughter.
UPS repeatedly claimed they had no work for me, but the experiences of my co-workers told a different story. During this time, my employer offered temporary work assignments to several people, some of whom were injured on the job, others of whom were unable to do their regular jobs for different reasons. In one case, they created a position for a driver who lost his license for driving under the influence. I did not feel this was fair. The tasks they had these employees doing were things like peeling labels, washing windows and answering phones – all things I was capable of doing.
A secretary had resigned around the same time I became pregnant. I have done her job in the past while she was on leave and I was already trained. My boss refused to allow me to do her job saying he didn’t want to set a precedent of making accommodations for pregnant workers. Instead, UPS hired a new employee and sent me packing. The accommodation I was requesting was temporary, and would only last for the remainder of my pregnancy. Instead, I was forced to leave work altogether for the duration of my pregnancy, even though I was willing and able to keep working.
Treating pregnant workers equally when it comes to accommodations is important – an idea UPS seems unwilling to acknowledge. Women like me who work in male-dominated industries are tossed to the side when we choose to start or grow our families. I was forced to give up my salary and benefits in order to become a mother – an unfair and unnecessary choice. Women have been fighting the stereotype that they should be barefoot and pregnant, instead of at work, for years. It’s time for UPS to respect both the law and its pregnant workers.
Julie Desantis-Mayer has worked for UPS for nearly ten years. Represented by the ACLU and NYCLU, she filed a complaint against her employer with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. We argue that UPS’s actions violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the New York State Human Rights Law.