Swift not required to accommodate pregnant driver, court rules

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Swift Transportation did not unlawfully discriminate against a female driver who was denied a light-duty assignment when she could no longer drive over the road, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled May 16. The decision affirms summary judgment for Swift granted by a lower court.

Although light-duty assignments are available to workers’ compensation claimants, Swift’s policy is to deny light-duty work to drivers who cannot perform heavy lifting and who are not injured on the job.

When the driver, Amanda Reeves, applied for a driving job at Swift in July 2002, she was told that her job could require her to use a dolly to push or pull freight weighing up to 200 pounds and occasionally to push freight weighing up to 100 pounds with brute force. During the hiring process, Reeves signed a form representing to Swift that she could bear this level of physical strain. Reeves further represented that she could lift 75 pounds and carry it 56 feet, as well as lift 60 pounds over her head.

About three months after Reeves started working for Swift, Reeves learned that she was pregnant. Her doctor told her not to lift more than 20 pounds. She requested light-duty assignments and was told there were none. After several weeks, Swift terminated Reeves’ employment.

“Pregnancy-blind policies of course can be tools of discrimination,” the appeals court said. “But challenging them as tools of discrimination requires evidence and inference beyond such policies’ express terms.” The court found that Reeves neither produced direct evidence of discrimination or even alleged that her termination was with discriminatory intent.

For a copy of the Sixth Circuit opinion, click here.