TIME Supreme Court

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Protecting Pregnant Women in the Workplace

A woman who challenged UPS policy on pregnant workers can take her case back to court

Companies that provide special treatment for a large percentage of their injured workers should do the same for pregnant women, the Supreme Court decided on Wednesday.

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of former UPS employee Peggy Young, who challenged a company policy that did not allow her to take on lighter duties during her pregnancy, even though the company provided alternative work to some employees with injuries or other circumstances that prevented them from doing their regular jobs.

Wednesday’s ruling blocked an earlier decision saying UPS was justified in not accommodating Young and now sends the case back to a lower court, where her original lawsuit can be revived. Young is seeking back pay and benefits for the time she went without work during her pregnancy. (She’s since found work elsewhere.)

In the court’s majority opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer, said there is “genuine dispute as to whether UPS provided more favorable treatment to at least some employees whose situation cannot reasonably be distinguished from Young’s.”

Breyer was joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elana Kagan and Chief Justice John Roberts in his opinion. Justice Samuel Alito also joined, but wrote his own opinion.

When Young became pregnant in 2006, doctors advised her to take on a lighter workload during her pregnancy. UPS refused, saying its policy was to treat pregnant women as if they were injured outside the workplace, which did not entitle them to special accommodations. As a result, Young had to take unpaid leave.

Young challenged this decision, saying it was unfair of UPS to not make accommodations for pregnant workers (a policy that has since changed) while offering alternative duties to those who were injured on the job.

Breyer wrote that the lower court must consider why UPS made accommodations for other workers but did not do the same for pregnant women. “Why, when the employer accommodated so many, could it not accommodate pregnant women as well?” Breyer asked.

The Court didn’t go so far as to say that pregnant workers should be treated more favorably than others, just that pregnant workers should be given the same accommodations offered to others. Still, Young’s lawyers called the decision a “big win for women in the workplace.”

“The Court recognized that employers can’t put pregnancy in a class by itself. The Court recognized that a ruling for UPS would thwart Congress’s intent,” said Sam Bagenstos, who argued Young’s case before the Supreme Court last December.

“It made clear that employers may not refuse to accommodate pregnant workers based on considerations of cost or convenience when they accommodate other workers,” he said in a statement.

On a press call Wednesday, Marcia Greenberger of the National Women’s Law Center said the Court’s ruling “reaffirmed that the pregnancy discrimination act means what it says.”

“It is illegal sex discrimination,” she said.

UPS praised the Supreme Court’s ruling as well.

“UPS is pleased that the Supreme Court rejected the argument that UPS’s pregnancy-neutral policy was inherently discriminatory,” the company said in a statement, according to reports. “Instead, the Supreme Court adopted a new standard for evaluating pregnancy discrimination claims without ruling for either party and sent the case back to the lower courts for further consideration.”

Young’s case comes as many states have and are considering expanded protections for pregnant workers. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission also issued updated guidance on how employers can treat pregnant employees under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act last July.

TIME Foreign Policy

Obama Slows Troop Drawdown in Afghanistan

President Obama said the U.S. will keep about 10,000 troops in Afghanistan this year, as that country’s leaders had asked he slow the process of removing troops by 2017.

“This flexibility reflects a reinvigoration in our partnership with Afghanistan,” Obama said at a joint press conference with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Tuesday.

Obama had previously said he wanted to draw down the remaining 9,800 troops to about half that number by the end of the year, with the goal of having between 1,000 and 1,500 in the country when he leaves office in 2017.

Ghani and Afghan Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah have spent the past two days in Washington meeting with high-level officials and expressing gratitude for the American government’s assistance as he seeks to assert control in the country. The Afghan leaders’ trip to the U.S. have marked a bit of a new way forward between the two countries. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter on Monday referred to the relationship as “revitalized.”

Ghani said the flexibility will allow the country to accelerate reforms to ensure its security forces are better trained and focused on their fundamental mission and to ensure that they “honor human rights.”

“Tragedy brought us together, interests now unite us,” Ghani said at the press conference.

Obama noted that slowing the drawdown means more Americans will remain in Afghanistan who would have come home, but he stressed that the overall goal of returning most troops by 2017 hasn’t changed.

“Providing this additional timeframe,” he said, “… is well worth it.”

TIME White House

White House Official Pushes Netanyahu to ‘Match Words with Action’

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough told a group of liberal, pro-Israel supporters the solution was fundamental to U.S. foreign policy

A top White House official doubled down on criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a speech to an American Jewish organization Monday.

Appearing before the annual conference for J Street, a pro-Israel liberal advocacy group, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said that Netanyahu’s new coalition needs to “match words with action” on the Israeli policy toward Palestine.

“An occupation that has lasted for almost 50 years must end, and the Palestinian people must have the right to live in and govern themselves in their own sovereign state,” he said.

On the eve of an election last week, Netanyahu had said that he would not allow a Palestinian state if he was re-elected, though he walked back the comments in an interview on MSNBC after he won.

In his remarks, McDonough argued that a two-state solution would benefit Israel too, allowing it to remain “both Jewish and democratic.”

“I know that you are here because you care deeply about the cause of peace,” he told the crowd. “And your voices are important too – you can help remind people that there is a great constituency for peace; that there are people who believe, as President Obama does, that peace is necessary, peace is just, and – yes – peace is possible.”

TIME White House

Obama Says America’s ‘Open for Business’ at Summit

U.S. President Obama waves after speaking at the SelectUSA Investment Summit
Joshua Roberts—Reuters President Barack Obama waves after speaking at the SelectUSA Investment Summit at National Harbor, Md on March 23, 2015.

President Obama was self-assured during a quick sales pitch to foreign business leaders Monday, saying he was confident that he could work with Congress to iron out trade deals and a budget plan.

“The things that help businesses grow are not partisan,” Obama said in his remarks.

Still, he and a key Cabinet member warned Republicans against blocking the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, which helps foreign companies that need credit buy U.S. goods.

Obama faces partisan difficulties on both sides as he pushes ahead with the business-friendly agenda. A conservative group backed by the Koch Brothers launched a new effort Monday to block the Ex-Im Bank, arguing that it represents “cronyism and corporate welfare.”

The administration is also going head-to-head with members of the Democratic Party and typical supporters like labor unions as it irons out the plan that would free up trade between the U.S. and about a dozen countries in the Asia-Pacific region and Latin America.

Some of the most outspoken critics are Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who oppose the administration’s goal of moving the trade legislation through Congress quickly because they worry it will threaten jobs and standards on food and product safety.

In an interview ahead of the President’s speech, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said it would be “terrible” if the Ex-Im Bank were to expire and argued the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal is critical to the U.S. remaining competitive with Asia’s growing middle class.

“Today there are 550 million people in the middle class in Asia,” she said. “That number will be 2.7 billion in 15 years. The ability for our companies to be able to sell into the fastest-growing middle class market in the world is really critical.”

Vinai Thummalapally, the executive director of SelectUSA, told reporters that foreign investors are generally confident that the debate over the Ex-Im bank will die down eventually.

“In spite of the debate, it rarely comes up there’s this confidence that things will settle down, based on things that happened in the past.” for the most part, he added, “they’re amused, they shake their heads.”

TIME weather

First Day of Spring to Bring Snow to Millions in Northeast

Water vapor map of the eastern U.S. on March 19, 2015.
NASA/NOAA Water vapor map of the eastern U.S. on March 19, 2015.

Parts of the Northeast could see a half-inch of snow on the first day of spring

The calendar may say Friday is the first day of spring, but Old Man Winter isn’t going out that easy. Yet another round of snow is set to strike the Northeast on Friday, with 3 to 6 in. of snow expected to fall between West Virginia and Massachusetts.

Parts of Washington and Virginia can expect a mix of rain and snow, according to Accuweather. The storm is set to have the greatest impact in parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland, where residents could face up to 6 in. of the devil’s dandruff on Friday. The Weather Channel reports some parts of New England may also see 3 in. of snow on Friday.

Friday’s storm is the cherry on top of a blistery winter for the Northeastern swath of the U.S., particularly for residents of Boston, which has faced its snowiest winter on record in 2014–15 with over 108 in. of snow.

The rest of the world, however, has been feeling the heat. According to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, this winter was the world’s warmest.

 

 

TIME food and drink

Your Cheap Wine Might Be High in Arsenic

Lawsuits claims Franzia and Trader Joe wines contained high levels of the known carcinogen

A class action lawsuit in California claims there are high levels of arsenic in some varieties of low-cost wine.

The lawsuit says wines including Franzia White Grenache, Trader Joe’s Two-Buck Chuck White Zinfandel, and Menage a Trois Moscato had between three and five times the amount of arsenic the Environmental Protection Agency allows in drinking water. Arsenic is a known carcinogen that can lead to other serious health problems.

According to CBS News, which first reported the story on Thursday, a laboratory analyzed over 1,300 bottles of wine and found nearly one in four had arsenic levels higher than the EPA permits in water. The laboratory found cheap wines had the highest levels of arsenic. The lawsuit accuses more than 24 winemakers of having unsafe wine.

Wine is not regulated by the federal government, and the Wine Group, which distributes Franzia wine and is named in the lawsuit, told CBS comparing wine to water is misguided because most people consume more water than wine.

Treasury Wine Estates, another company named in the lawsuit, said its “brands are fully compliant with all relevant federal and state guidelines.” Trader Joe’s said in a statement they are “investigating the matter with several of our wine producing suppliers.”

The lawyer filing the suit said his ultimate goal is to get the wines recalled, get companies to distribute refunds and “ultimately clean up the wine industry in California.”

[CBS News]

Read next: Calorie Count Coming Soon to a Can of Guinness Near You

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TIME States

FBI Investigating Death of Man Found Hanging From a Tree in Mississippi

Authorities have not yet determined whether the death is a homicide or suicide

The FBI is helping local authorities investigate the death of a black man found hanging from a tree in Mississippi.

Authorities discovered the body around 10 a.m. Thursday, according to Claiborne County Sheriff Marvin Lucas. The sheriff’s team and state officials were conducting a ground search for a man reported missing when they discovered the body. “We found him in the woods hanging from a tree,” Lucas tells TIME. “Whether it was a suicide or a homicide is yet to be determined.”

Jason Pack, an FBI agent, confirmed to TIME that local authorities had contacted the FBI and Mississippi Bureau of Investigations to assist with the ongoing investigation.

The Claiborne County sheriff told TIME they had not been able to positively identify the body, though authorities say the body was found about half a mile away from the missing man’s last known residence. The family last saw the missing man on March 2; a missing-persons report had been filed on March 8.

TIME White House

Obama Taps Facebook Director to Upgrade White House Technology

Facebook's David Recordon is the White House's new IT specialist

The Obama Administration has tapped another Silicon Valley techie to help the federal government navigate the digital world.

Facebook Engineering Director David Recordon is set to join the White House staff as the director of information technology, a new position created to upgrade technology at the White House. According to a White House blog post, Recordon will unite overlapping programs and ensure the government has the most up-to-date, secure equipment.

“His considerable private sector experience and ability to deploy the latest collaborative and communication technologies will be a great asset to our work on behalf of the American people,” President Obama said of Recordon in a statement.

Yahoo News first reported Recordon’s appointment on Thursday and Obama signed a presidential memorandum establishing the position later in the afternoon. Before joining Facebook in 2009, Recordon worked at several startups including blogging services creator Six Apart and Verisign.

Recordon’s hiring is the latest move by the Obama administration to bring the federal government’s technology up to speed with the private sector. In 2014, President Obama launched the U.S. Digital Service, which brought some of the brightest minds of the tech world to Washington to improve the government’s use of technology. The Digital Service is led by Mikey Dickerson, a former Google executive who was tapped to fix the Healthcare.gov website following its abysmal launch.

TIME White House

Obama Comes Out Swinging Against House Republican Budget

President Obama
Brendan Smialowski—AFP/Getty Images President Barack Obama speaks at the City Club of Cleveland on March 18, 2015.

He criticized the budget proposal during an event in Cleveland

President Obama took his trash talking on Republicans’ 2016 budget proposal on the road Wednesday, telling a Cleveland audience it offers a “path to prosperity [for] those who are already prospering.”

During a speech to the City Club of Cleveland, the President said though the success of his plan to expand “middle-class economics” proves that “trickle-down economics” don’t work, Republicans’ budget proposal—which would balance the budget within 10 years—doesn’t reflect that.

“We know now that the doom and gloom predictions that justified this [type of] budget in the past were wrong,” Obama said. “Despite the new evidence, their approach hasn’t changed. “

Since the House budget was released on Tuesday the Obama administration has come out swinging, using it as a convenient foil against his own budget ideas. Republicans suggest cutting $5.5 trillion from the budget over the next ten years, mainly by pulling back investments in domestic programs. Defense spending under the budget would increase, about $36 billion over Obama’s budget. The budget also calls for repealing Obama’s signature health care law.

The President was particularly critical of the tax proposals in the Republican budget, which he said would benefit the wealthiest Americans and leave middle class Americans out to dry. “Those at the top aren’t asked to sacrifice a single dime,” Obama said.

House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, hit back at the President’s appearance in his home state. “Sadly this is just the latest example of President Obama putting campaign-style events and partisan politics above governing. And it’s all a ruse designed to distract from the president’s own problems, “ a post on the Speaker’s website reads.

TIME College Basketball

See President Obama’s March Madness Bracket

President Barack Obama speaks at Georgia Tech in Atlanta on March 10, 2015
Jacquelyn Martin—AP President Barack Obama speaks at Georgia Tech in Atlanta on March 10, 2015

March Madness has made its way to 1600 Pennsylvania

President Obama is rooting for the Kentucky Wildcats.

The President met with ESPN’s Andy Katz on Tuesday to name his picks for the 2015 Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament, and he predicted Kentucky would complete its unbeaten season to triumph over Villanova in the final championship game. The Commander-in-Chief has completed the “Presidential bracket” since he took office in 2009.

Obama’s picks show very little love for the nation’s underdog teams, but he has some surprising upsets with No. 10 Davidson besting No. 2 Gonzaga to compete against No. 3 Iowa State in the Sweet Sixteen.

Obama’s Elite Eight features match-ups between Duke and Iowa State, Villanova and Virginia, Kentucky and Notre Dame, and Wisconsin and Arizona, with Kentucky, Arizona, Duke and Villanova proceeding to the Final Four.

ESPN notes the President’s odds are already off: on his bracket BYU beats Ole Miss., but BYU was knocked out in an opening round game on Tuesday.

As TIME’s Jack Dickey points out, the President has only picked the right men’s champion once: in 2009 when he tapped the North Carolina Tarheels to win.

The President’s picks for the women’s tournament are set to be released on Thursday.

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