Court Rules the Pregnancy Discrimination Act is not RetroactiveMay 18, 2009
As AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund Fellow Rebecca Herr explained in a December AAUW Dialog post, the Hulteen case involved a group of women who took pregnancy leave at AT&T before the Pregnancy Discrimination Act became law. As a result, their pensions are smaller than those of women who took pregnancy leave at AT&T after 1978 and smaller than men who took short-term disability leave. The women argued that their pensions should reflect the new pregnancy leave policy, not the older, discriminatory policy. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the employees, and AT&T appealed. In 2008, AAUW joined the National Women’s Law Center on their amicus brief in support of the respondents.
Today, seven justices voted to overturn the lower court decision. In a majority opinion written by Justice David Souter — who recently announced his impending retirement — the court ruled that Congress didn’t make the Pregnancy Discrimination Act retroactive; therefore, the women’s retirement benefits should not be recalculated. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer dissented.
Not only is this ruling disappointing for the female employees at AT&T, who will continue to feel the ramifications of pregnancy discrimination in each pension check they receive, but the decision may affect thousands of women who took pregnancy leaves prior to 1978 and will retire soon.
Adam Zimmerman, former Regulatory Affairs Manager, also contributed to this blog post.