Supreme Court Rules Against Women Workers

Emily Douglas

Women whose pension payments are reduced because they took pregnancy-related leave during their employment when pregnancy discrimination wasn't illegal aren't entitled to full pension benefits now, the Supreme Court ruled today.

Women whose pension payments are reduced because they took pregnancy-related leave during their employment at a time when pregnancy discrimination wasn’t illegal aren’t entitled to full pension benefits now, the Supreme Court ruled today.

Noreen Hulteen and three other women sued AT&T because their pension benefits were lower than they would have been had the women received full credit for time worked for the company while they were on pregnancy-related leave — which was later required by law by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978. "AT&T continued to deny them that credit when it set
their pension benefits many years later," the National Women’s Law Center explains. "The Court found that the
credits were determined as part of a ‘bona fide’ seniority system, and
thus could not be challenged under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1964."

The AP writes of the dissent:

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer dissented. By
making it illegal to discriminate against women on pregnancy leave,
"Congress intended no continuing reduction of women’s compensation,
pension benefits included, attributable to their placement on pregnancy
leave," said Ginsburg, the court’s only woman.

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The case has repercussions far beyond the four women who sued AT&T, the AP explains:

The court’s decision could affect thousands of women who took
pregnancy leaves decades ago and now are headed toward retirement, said
Christine L. Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law
Project. Now, the only way women who took pregnancy leave before 1979
can make their leave time count is through the good graces of their
company or through legislation by Congress, she said.

 

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