Faculty Journal Articles and Book Chapters

Hard Labor: The Pregnant Body at Work


The last forty years have seen the development of greater labor force attachments by both pregnant and postpartum women. These developing attachments have forced courts and legislatures to reimagine the pregnant body as one that is not in a state of watchful waiting, but rather is engaged in hard labor. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978 is the key statute that protects these women not only from adverse employment actions motivated by bias, but from those motivated by paternalism as well. But the meaning and scope of the PDA has been a source of great controversy in recent years, particularly when applied in the context of accommodation claims. This article considers the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Young v. United Parcel Service, in which it established a new test for evaluating an employer’s denial of an accommodation to a pregnant worker, despite offering it to at least some other employees with comparable restrictions. In a ruling for the plaintiff, the Court made it harder for employers to be so dismissive of pregnant workers’ requests for accommodation, making it more likely that the pregnant women will, while engaged in hard labor, be treated like everyone else.

Publication Title

Law, Culture and the Humanities

Document Type



Women, gender, employment, pregnancy, discrimination, labor



Digital Object Identifier (DOI)