The Supreme Court Issued Two Decisions That Will Protect Individual’s Rights
In the midst of a congressional budget battle where the GOP has offered proposals that make it harder for most American families to get ahead, the Supreme Court took important actions to protect rights. Yesterday, the Court issued opinions on two important cases: one that involved workplace discrimination, and the other, the disenfranchisement of minority voters. In the first, Young v. UPS, the justices ruled that a young mother, who sued the United Parcel Service (UPS) for forcing her to choose between working a labor-intensive job while pregnant or go on unpaid leave, could have her day in court. The second case, Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama, brought a small victory for voting rights when the justices rejected a lower court’s approval of Alabama’s redistricting plan. Here’s what you need to know:
Peggy Young Will Have Her Day In Court
In Young v. UPS, the Court granted the plaintiff, Peggy Young, the chance to fully make the case in court that UPS’s policies were significantly unfair to pregnant women, an opportunity she was not given in the lower courts. At her job, Young was forced to lift 70 pound boxes and when she got pregnant, her midwife recommended she not lift more than 20 pounds. Despite a note from her midwife, UPS only offered her unpaid leave without medical benefits. Had Young been written a similar note due to injury or disability, UPS would have put her on what is known as “light duty.” This ruling:
- Highlights the importance of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act: Instead of siding with either party in the case, the court decided that if Young can show UPS’s policy was significantly burdensome for pregnant workers, then she can get to a jury. Because the court did not endorse either side’s reading of the law, this case shoes how important the Pregnancy Discrimination Act is at ensuring pregnant workers are not unfairly burdened by workplace policies.
- Proves the need for strong workplace practices that will not unfairly disadvantage pregnant workers. UPS eventually changed their policy, and other companies should follow.
- Sides with the opinion of a majority of Americans. Across all demographic breakdowns—age, race, gender, political party—at least 73 percent of respondents said the court should rule in favor of Young.
A Small Victory For Access To The Ballot
At issue in Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama is the state’s legislative maps, which have minimized minority voters’ influence by packing these voters into a small number of districts. It’s important to note that:
- This ruling does not strike down the maps. The court’s decision does not guarantee that Alabama’s maps will be struck down, but like in Young, it ensures that they will get another day in court by rejecting the lower court’s reasoning for upholding them.
- More elections will take place before Alabama’s maps are fixed. Because the court did not officially strike down the maps, it is likely that more elections will be held before Alabama’s maps become fair.
- This casing highlights the importance of the Voting Rights Act, which the Supreme Court gutted in its Shelby v. Holder decision. The VRA served as a check against state officials’ ability to draw discriminatory maps like Alabama’s.
BOTTOM LINE: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has said the court has a “blind spot” when it comes to women’s issues, and its recent legacy on civil rights issues has been less than perfect. So while these decisions are rather narrow in scope, they still show an important step in the right direction toward giving less powerful interests a voice.