Policy Change Punishes Pregnant Women

Teamster Local 554 member Sarah Miles, the daughter of another Nebraska UPS Teamster Jeff Benson, found out what UPS management thinks of its pregnant workers. Put on a weight restriction by her doctor, Sarah was told by UPS that no light-duty work was available, and that she did not qualify for Family Medical Leave. 

And Sarah isn’t the only one. When North Carolina UPS driver Nichele Fulmore was told by her doctor that she could not lift more than 20 pounds during her pregnancy, she assumed that UPS would make accommodations so that she could continue working, as they had done for others in the past at her center. 

But UPS said they would not provide light duty work. So Nichele found herself out of work, and after 26 weeks on disability, out of health benefits, with three months to go until her due date. 

These are not isolated incidents. UPS is imposing a company-wide policy change that denies pregnant woman with health restrictions the right to perform alternate duties. In the process, UPS management is denying women access to medical benefits (which run out after six months on disability leave) and, frequently, the right to use their Family Medical Leave (FMLA) benefits. 

FMLA lets employers deny benefits to workers if they have fewer than 1,250 hours worked in the previous year. The majority of UPS’s workforce is part-time. That means that many women who are planning to use their FMLA benefits after the birth of their child may come up short on hours if they are refused the right to keep working during their pregnancy. 

In the past, UPS generally provided light-duty work to pregnant employees with work restrictions. This practice was written into the union contract in 1997. But now UPS claims that they only have to honor the contract in states that have their own laws regarding pregnancy and light-duty work. It’s a good deal for them: the only state known to have such a law is California. 

The IBT has refused to fight over the issue, claiming that a bad arbitration decision makes it a done deal. 

But members and families see it differently, and aren’t ready to give up. Last month, Sarah Miles’ mother Susan Benson conducted a one-person picket in front of UPS in Omaha, Nebraska, and got noticed by UPS management in the process. She went back the next week, this time after notifying the media. Management really started paying attention. 

“They just ticked me off,” Benson said. “You don’t take a young woman who’s worked hard for you for three years, and kick her into the street with no pay and no insurance because she’s pregnant. My husband works for UPS, and we’ve had to deal with them for 24 years on insurance issues. Now they’re hurting my daughter.” 

Getting management’s attention is one thing, getting this issue resolved is another. Pressure needs to be brought to bear on management, through the union and the public. UPS’s actions need to be brought out in the open. 

To make that happen, we need to gather information. If you have been affected by UPS’s policy or know of other pregnant UPS Teamsters who have been, please contact TDU
 

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