Today’s News & Commentary — October 29
According to the Washington Post, this week UPS changed its official policy and said it would now offer temporary light duty not just to workers injured on the job, as had been the policy, but to pregnant workers as well. This is precisely the issue in Young v. UPS, a case the Supreme Court will hear this term (see our previous coverage here), in which UPS will be defending their previous policy not to offer light work assignments to pregnant workers. UPS will still participate in the case; they argue that the new change was adopted voluntarily as a result of new EEOC pregnancy accommodation guidelines, and was not compelled by Pregnancy Discrimination Act, as the plaintiff in Young asserts. Advocates point to the bad publicity UPS has received as a result of the case as the reason for the policy change.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Lowe’s will introduce robotic shopping assistants in one of its California stores in November. The company claims this is the first retail robot of its kind in the US. “The OSHbot will greet customers, ask if they need help and guide them through the store to the product.” The robots have two screens for “video conferences with a store expert and to display in-store specials. The head features a 3-D scanner to help customers identify items. OSHbot speaks English and Spanish, but other languages will be added.” While cost still remains an issue for the new technology (the OSHbots cost about $50,000 each), industry experts expect robots to become more prevalent in retail stores in coming years.
NPR has a story about the various insecurities faced by home care workers. Many of these workers have long struggled with low wages, long hours, no time off from work, and many lack health insurance. The DOL forecasts that over a million new home care workers will be needed in the next decade.