Newport News Shipbuilding Co. v. EEOC
462 U.S. 669 (1983)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Newport News Shipbuilding Co. v. EEOC, 462 U.S. 669 (1983)

Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co. v.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

No. 82-411

Argued April 27, 1983

Decided June 20, 1983

462 U.S. 669

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR

THE FOURTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Section 703(a)(1) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discriminate against an employee with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of the employee's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Title VII was amended in 1978 by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of pregnancy. Petitioner employer then amended its health insurance plan to provide its female employees with hospitalization benefits for pregnancy-related conditions to the same extent as for other medical conditions, but the plan provided less extensive pregnancy benefits for spouses of male employees. Petitioner filed an action in Federal District Court challenging the EEOC's guidelines which indicated that the amended plan was unlawful, and the EEOC in turn filed an action against petitioner alleging discrimination on the basis of sex against male employees in petitioner's provision of hospitalization benefits. The District Court upheld the lawfulness of petitioner's amended plan and dismissed the EEOC's complaint. On a consolidated appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed.

Held: The pregnancy limitation in petitioner's amended health plan discriminates against male employees in violation of § 703(a)(1). Pp. 462 U. S. 676-685.

(a) Congress, by enacting the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, not only overturned the holding of General Electric Co. v. Gilbert,429 U. S. 125, that the exclusion of disabilities caused by pregnancy from an employer's disability plan providing general coverage did not constitute discrimination based on sex, but also rejected the reasoning employed in that case that differential treatment of pregnancy is not gender-based discrimination because only women can become pregnant. Pp. 462 U. S. 676-682.

(b) The Pregnancy Discrimination Act makes it clear that it is discriminatory to exclude pregnancy coverage from an otherwise inclusive benefits plan. Thus, petitioner's health plan unlawfully gives married male employees a benefit package for their dependents that is less inclusive than the dependency coverage provided to married female employees. Pp. 462 U. S. 682-684.

(c) There is no merit to petitioner's argument that the prohibitions of Title VII do not extend to pregnant, spouses because the statute applies only to discrimination in employment. Since the Pregnancy Discrimination

Page 462 U. S. 670

Act makes it clear that discrimination based on pregnancy is, on its face, discrimination based on sex, and since the spouse's sex is always the opposite of the employee's sex, discrimination against female spouses in the provision of fringe benefits is also discrimination against male employees. Pp. 462 U. S. 684-685.

682 F.2d 113, affirmed.

STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. REHNQUIST, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which POWELL, J., joined, post, p. 462 U. S. 685.

JUSTICE STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court.

In 1978, Congress decided to overrule our decision in General Electric Co. v. Gilbert,429 U. S. 125 (1976), by amending Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 "to prohibit sex discrimination on the basis of pregnancy." [Footnote 1] On the effective

Page 462 U. S. 671

date of the Act, petitioner amended its health insurance plan to provide its female employees with hospitalization benefits for pregnancy-related conditions to the same extent as for other medical conditions. [Footnote 2] The plan continued, however, to provide less favorable pregnancy benefits for spouses of male employees. The question presented is whether the amended plan complies with the amended statute.

Petitioner's plan provides hospitalization and medical-surgical coverage for a defined category of employees [Footnote 3] and a defined category of dependents. Dependents covered by the plan include employees' spouses, unmarried children between 14 days and 19 years of age, and some older dependent children. [Footnote 4] Prior to April 29, 1979, the scope of the plan's coverage for eligible dependents was identical to its coverage for employees. [Footnote 5] All covered males, whether employees or

Page 462 U. S. 672

dependents, were treated alike for purposes of hospitalization coverage. All covered females, whether employees or dependents, also were treated alike. Moreover, with one relevant exception, the coverage for males and females was identical. The exception was a limitation on hospital coverage for pregnancy that did not apply to any other hospital confinement. [Footnote 6]

After the plan was amended in 1979, it provided the same hospitalization coverage for male and female employees themselves for all medical conditions, but it differentiated between female employees and spouses of male employees in its provision of pregnancy-related benefits. [Footnote 7] In a booklet describing the plan, petitioner explained the amendment that gave rise to this litigation in this way:

"B. Effective April 29, 1979, maternity benefits for female employees will be paid the same as any other hospital confinement as described in question 16. This applies only to deliveries beginning on April 29, 1979 and thereafter."

"C. Maternity benefits for the wife of a male employee will continue to be paid as described in part 'A' of this question."

App. to Pet. for Cert. 37a.

Page 462 U. S. 673

In turn, Part A stated:

"The Basic Plan pays up to $500 of the hospital charges and 100% of reasonable and customary for delivery and anesthesiologist charges."

Ibid. As the Court of Appeals observed:

"To the extent that the hospital charges in connection with an uncomplicated delivery may exceed $500, therefore, a male employee receives less complete coverage of spousal disabilities than does a female employee."

667 F.2d 448, 449 (CA4 1982).

After the passage of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and before the amendment to petitioner's plan became effective, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued "interpretive guidelines" in the form of questions and answers. [Footnote 8] Two of those questions, numbers 21 and 22, made it clear that the EEOC would consider petitioner's amended plan unlawful. Number 21 read as follows:

"21. Q. Must an employer provide health insurance coverage for the medical expenses of pregnancy-related conditions of the spouses of male employees? Of the dependents of all employees?"

"A. Where an employer provides no coverage for dependents, the employer is not required to institute such coverage. However, if an employer's insurance program covers the medical expenses of spouses of female employees, then it must equally cover the medical expenses of spouses of male employees, including those arising from pregnancy-related conditions."

"But the insurance does not have to cover the pregnancy-related conditions of non-spouse dependents as long as it excludes the pregnancy-related conditions of

Page 462 U. S. 674

such non-spouse dependents of male and female employees equally."

44 Fed.Reg. 23807 (Apr. 20, 1979). [Footnote 9]

On September 20, 1979, one of petitioner's male employees filed a charge with the EEOC alleging that petitioner had unlawfully refused to provide full insurance coverage for his wife's hospitalization caused by pregnancy; a month later, the United Steelworkers filed a similar charge on behalf of other individuals. App. 15-18. Petitioner then commenced an action in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, challenging the Commission's guidelines and seeking both declaratory and injunctive relief. The complaint named the EEOC, the male employee, and the United Steelworkers of America as defendants. Id. at 5-14. Later, the EEOC filed a civil action against petitioner alleging discrimination on the basis of sex against male employees in the company's provision of hospitalization benefits. Id. at 28-31. Concluding that the benefits of the new Act extended only to female employees, and not to spouses of male employees, the District Court held that petitioner's plan was lawful, and enjoined enforcement of the EEOC guidelines relating to pregnancy benefits for employees' spouses. 510

Page 462 U. S. 675

F.Supp. 66 (1981). It also dismissed the EEOC's complaint. App. to Pet. for Cert. 21a. The two cases were consolidated on appeal.

A divided panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed, reasoning that, since

"the company's health insurance plan contains a distinction based on pregnancy that results in less complete medical coverage for male employees with spouses than for female employees with spouses, it is impermissible under the statute."

667 F.2d at 451. After rehearing the case en banc, the court reaffirmed the conclusion of the panel over the dissent of three judges who believed the statute was intended to protect female employees "in their ability or inability to work," and not to protect spouses of male employees. 682 F.2d 113 (1982). Because the important question presented by the case had been decided differently by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, EEOC v. Lockheed Missiles & Space Co., 680 F.2d 1243 (1982), we granted certiorari. 459 U.S. 1069 (1982). [Footnote 10]

Ultimately, the question we must decide is whether petitioner has discriminated against its male employees with respect to their compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of their sex within the meaning of § 703(a)(1) of Title VII. [Footnote 11] Although the Pregnancy Discrimination

Page 462 U. S. 676

Act has clarified the meaning of certain terms in this section, neither that Act nor the underlying statute contains a definition of the word "discriminate." In order to decide whether petitioner's plan discriminates against male employees because of their sex, we must therefore go beyond the bare statutory language. Accordingly, we shall consider whether Congress, by enacting the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, not only overturned the specific holding in General Electric Co. v. Gilbert,429 U. S. 125 (1976), but also rejected the test of discrimination employed by the Court in that case. We believe it did. Under the proper test, petitioner's plan is unlawful because the protection it affords to married male employees is less comprehensive than the protection it affords to married female employees.

I

At issue in General Electric Co. v. Gilbert was the legality of a disability plan that provided the company's employees with weekly compensation during periods of disability resulting from nonoccupational causes. Because the plan excluded disabilities arising from pregnancy, the District Court and the Court of Appeals concluded that it discriminated against female employees because of their sex. This Court reversed.

After noting that Title VII does not define the term "discrimination," the Court applied an analysis derived from cases construing the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Id. at 429 U. S. 133. The Gilbert opinion quoted at length from a footnote in Geduldig v. Aiello,417 U. S. 484 (1974), a case which had upheld the constitutionality of excluding pregnancy coverage under California's disability insurance plan. [Footnote 12]

"Since it is a finding of

Page 462 U. S. 677

sex-based discrimination that must trigger, in a case such as this, the finding of an unlawful employment practice under § 703(a)(1),"

the Court added,

Geduldig is precisely in point in its holding that an exclusion of pregnancy from a disability benefits plan providing general coverage is not a gender-based discrimination at all.

429 U.S. at 429 U. S. 136.

The dissenters in Gilbert took issue with the majority's assumption "that the Fourteenth Amendment standard of discrimination is coterminous with that applicable to Title VII." Id. at 429 U. S. 154, n. 6 (BRENNAN, J., dissenting); id. at 429 U. S. 160-161 (STEVENS, J., dissenting). [Footnote 13] As a matter of statutory interpretation, the dissenters rejected the Court's holding that the plan's exclusion of disabilities caused by pregnancy did not constitute discrimination based on sex. As JUSTICE BRENNAN explained, it was facially discriminatory for the company to devise

"a policy that, but for pregnancy, offers protection for all risks, even those that are 'unique to' men or

Page 462 U. S. 678

heavily male dominated."

Id. at 429 U. S. 160. It was inaccurate to describe the program as dividing potential recipients into two groups, pregnant women and nonpregnant persons, because insurance programs "deal with future risks, rather than historic facts." Rather, the appropriate classification was "between persons who face a risk of pregnancy and those who do not." Id. at 429 U. S. 161-162, n. 5 (STEVENS, J., dissenting). The company's plan, which was intended to provide employees with protection against the risk of uncompensated unemployment caused by physical disability, discriminated on the basis of sex by giving men protection for all categories of risk, but giving women only partial protection. Thus, the dissenters asserted that the statute had been violated because conditions of employment for females were less favorable than for similarly situated males.

When Congress amended Title VII in 1978, it unambiguously expressed its disapproval of both the holding and the reasoning of the Court in the Gilbert decision. It incorporated a new subsection in the "definitions" applicable "[f]or the purposes of this subchapter." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e (1976 ed., Supp. V). The first clause of the Act states, quite simply:

"The terms 'because of sex' or 'on the basis of sex' include, but are not limited to, because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions."

§ 2000e-(k). [Footnote 14] The House Report stated: "It is the Committee's view that the dissenting Justices correctly interpreted the Act." [Footnote 15] Similarly, the Senate Report quoted passages from the two dissenting opinions, stating that they "correctly express both the principle and the meaning of title VII." [Footnote 16]

Page 462 U. S. 679

Proponents of the bill repeatedly emphasized that the Supreme Court had erroneously interpreted congressional intent, and that amending legislation was necessary to reestablish the principles of Title VII law as they had been understood prior to the Gilbert decision. Many of them expressly agreed with the views of the dissenting Justices. [Footnote 17]

As petitioner argues, congressional discussion focused on the needs of female members of the workforce, rather than spouses of male employees. This does not create a "negative inference" limiting the scope of the Act to the specific problem that motivated its enactment. See United States v.

Page 462 U. S. 680

Turkette,452 U. S. 576, 452 U. S. 591 (1981). Cf. McDonald v. Santa Fe Trail Transp. Co.,427 U. S. 273, 427 U. S. 285-296 (1976). [Footnote 18] Congress apparently assumed that existing plans that included benefits for dependents typically provided no less pregnancy-related coverage for the wives of male employees than they did for female employees. [Footnote 19] When the question of differential coverage for dependents was addressed in the Senate Report, the Committee indicated that it should be resolved "on the basis of existing title VII principles." [Footnote 20] The legislative

Page 462 U. S. 681

context makes it clear that Congress was not thereby referring to the view of Title VII reflected in this Court's Gilbert opinion. Proponents of the legislation stressed throughout the debates that Congress had always intended to protect all individuals from sex discrimination in employment -- including but not limited to pregnant women workers. [Footnote 21] Against

Page 462 U. S. 682

this background we review the terms of the amended statute to decide whether petitioner has unlawfully discriminated against its male employees.

II

Section 703(a) makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to

"discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. . . ."

42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a) (1). Health insurance and other fringe benefits are "compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment." Male as well as female employees are protected against discrimination. Thus, if a private employer were to provide complete health insurance coverage for the dependents of its female employees, and no coverage at all for the dependents of its male employees, it would violate Title VII. [Footnote 22] Such a

Page 462 U. S. 683

practice would not pass the simple test of Title VII discrimination that we enunciated in Los Angeles Dept. of Water & Power v. Manhart,435 U. S. 702, 435 U. S. 711 (1978), for it would treat a male employee with dependents "in a manner which, but for that person's sex, would be different.'" [Footnote 23] The same result would be reached even if the magnitude of the discrimination were smaller. For example, a plan that provided complete hospitalization coverage for the spouses of female employees but did not cover spouses of male employees when they had broken bones would violate Title VII by discriminating against male employees.

Petitioner's practice is just as unlawful. Its plan provides limited pregnancy-related benefits for employees' wives, and affords more extensive coverage for employees' spouses for all other medical conditions requiring hospitalization. Thus

Page 462 U. S. 684

the husbands of female employees receive a specified level of hospitalization coverage for all conditions; the wives of male employees receive such coverage except for pregnancy-related conditions. [Footnote 24] Although Gilbert concluded that an otherwise inclusive plan that singled out pregnancy-related benefits for exclusion was nondiscriminatory on its face, because only women can become pregnant, Congress has unequivocally rejected that reasoning. The 1978 Act makes clear that it is discriminatory to treat pregnancy-related conditions less favorably than other medical conditions. Thus, petitioner's plan unlawfully gives married male employees a benefit package for their dependents that is less inclusive than the dependency coverage provided to married female employees.

There is no merit to petitioner's argument that the prohibitions of Title VII do not extend to discrimination against pregnant spouses because the statute applies only to discrimination in employment. A two-step analysis demonstrates the fallacy in this contention. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act has now made clear that, for all Title VII purposes, discrimination based on a woman's pregnancy is, on its face, discrimination because of her sex. And since the sex of the spouse is always the opposite of the sex of the employee, it follows inexorably that discrimination against female spouses in the provision of fringe benefits is also discrimination against male employees. Cf. Wengler v. Druggists Mutual Ins. Co.,446 U. S. 142, 446 U. S. 147 (1980). [Footnote 25] By

Page 462 U. S. 685

making clear that an employer could not discriminate on the basis of an employee's pregnancy, Congress did not erase the original prohibition against discrimination on the basis of an employee's sex.

In short, Congress' rejection of the premises of General Electric Co. v. Gilbert forecloses any claim that an insurance program excluding pregnancy coverage for female beneficiaries and providing complete coverage to similarly situated male beneficiaries does not discriminate on the basis of sex. Petitioner's plan is the mirror image of the plan at issue in Gilbert. The pregnancy limitation in this case violates Title VII by discriminating against male employees. [Footnote 26]

The judgment of the Court of Appeals is

Affirmed.

[Footnote 1]

Pub.L. 95-555, 92 Stat. 2076 (quoting title of 1978 Act). The new statute (the Pregnancy Discrimination Act) amended the "Definitions" section of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, to add a new subsection (k) reading in pertinent part as follows:

"The terms 'because of sex' or 'on the basis of sex' include, but are not limited to, because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions; and women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes, including receipt of benefits under fringe benefit programs, as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work, and nothing in section 2000e-2(h) of this title shall be interpreted to permit otherwise. . . ."

§ 2000e(k) (1976 ed., Supp. V).

[Footnote 2]

The amendment to Title VII became effective on the date of its enactment, October 31, 1978, but its requirements did not apply to any then-existing fringe benefit program until 180 days after enactment -- April 29, 1979. 92 Stat. 2076. The amendment to petitioner's plan became effective on April 29, 1979.

[Footnote 3]

On the first day following three months of continuous service, every active, full-time, production, maintenance, technical, and clerical area bargaining unit employee becomes a plan participant. App. to Pet. for Cert. 29a.

[Footnote 4]

For example, unmarried children up to age 23 who are full-time college students solely dependent on an employee and certain mentally or physically handicapped children are also covered. Id. at 30a.

[Footnote 5]

An amount payable under the plan for medical expenses incurred by a dependent does, however, take into account any amounts payable for those expenses by other group insurance plans. An employee's personal coverage is not affected by his or her spouse's participation in a group health plan. Id. at 34a-36a.

[Footnote 6]

For hospitalization caused by uncomplicated pregnancy, petitioner's plan paid 100% of the reasonable and customary physicians' charges for delivery and anesthesiology, and up to $500 of other hospital charges. For all other hospital confinement, the plan paid in full for a semiprivate room for up to 120 days and for surgical procedures; covered the first $750 of reasonable and customary charges for hospital services (including general nursing care, X-ray examinations, and drugs) and other necessary services during hospitalization; and paid 80% of the charges exceeding $750 for such services up to a maximum of 120 days. Id. at 31a-32a (question 16); see id. at 44a-45a (same differentiation for coverage after the employee's termination).

[Footnote 7]

Thus, as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found after its investigation,

"the record reveals that the present disparate impact on male employees had its genesis in the gender-based distinction accorded to female employees in the past."

App. 37.

[Footnote 8]

Interim interpretive guidelines were published for comment in the Federal Register on March 9, 1979. 44 Fed.Reg. 13278-13281. Final guidelines were published in the Federal Register on April 20, 1979. Id. at 23804-23808. The EEOC explained:

"It is the Commission's desire . . . that all interested parties be made aware of EEOC's view of their rights and obligations in advance of April 29, 1979, so that they may be in compliance by that date."

Id. at 23804. The questions and answers are reprinted as an appendix to 29 CFR 1604 (1982).

[Footnote 9]

Question 22 is equally clear. It reads:

"22. Q. Must an employer provide the same level of health insurance coverage for the pregnancy-related medical conditions of the spouses of male employees as it provides for its female employees?"

"A. No. It is not necessary to provide the same level of coverage for the pregnancy-related medical conditions of spouses of male employees as for female employees. However, where the employer provides coverage for the medical conditions of the spouses of its employees, then the level of coverage for pregnancy-related medical conditions of the spouses of male employees must be the same as the level of coverage for all other medical conditions of the spouses of female employees. For example, if the employer covers employees for 100 percent of reasonable and customary expenses sustained for a medical condition, but only covers dependent spouses for 50 percent of reasonable and customary expenses for their medical conditions, the pregnancy-related expenses of the male employee's spouse must be covered at the 50 percent level."

44 Fed.Reg. at 23807-23808.

[Footnote 10]

Subsequently, the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit agreed with the Ninth Circuit. EEOC v. Joslyn Mfg. & Supply Co., 706 F.2d 1469 (1983).

[Footnote 11]

Section 703(a), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a), provides in pertinent part:

"It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer --"

"(1) to fail or refuse to hire or discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. . . ."

Although the 1978 Act makes clear that this language should be construed to prohibit discrimination against a female employee on the basis of her own pregnancy, it did not remove or limit Title VII's prohibition of discrimination on the basis of the sex of the employee--male or female -- which was already present in the Act. As we explain infra at 462 U. S. 682-685, petitioner's plan discriminates against male employees on the basis of their sex.

[Footnote 12]

"While it is true that only women can become pregnant, it does not follow that every legislative classification concerning pregnancy is a sex-based classification like those considered in Reed [v. Reed,404 U. S. 71 (1971)], and Frontiero [v. Richardson,411 U. S. 677 (1973)]. Normal pregnancy is an objectively identifiable physical condition with unique characteristics. Absent a showing that distinctions involving pregnancy are mere pretexts designed to effect an invidious discrimination against the members of one sex or the other, lawmakers are constitutionally free to include or exclude pregnancy from the coverage of legislation such as this on any reasonable basis, just as with respect to any other physical condition."

"'The lack of identity between the excluded disability and gender as such under this insurance program becomes clear upon the most cursory analysis. The program divides potential recipients into two groups -- pregnant women and nonpregnant persons. While the first group is exclusively female, the second includes members of both sexes.' [417 U. S.] at 417 U. S. 496-497, n. 20."

429 U.S. at 429 U. S. 134-135. The principal emphasis in the text of the Geduldig opinion, unlike the quoted footnote, was on the reasonableness of the State's cost justifications for the classification in its insurance program. Seen 13, infra.

[Footnote 13]

As the text of the Geduldig opinion makes clear, in evaluating the constitutionality of California's insurance program, the Court focused on the "noninvidious" character of the State's legitimate fiscal interest in excluding pregnancy coverage. 417 U.S. at 417 U. S. 496. This justification was not relevant to the statutory issue presented in Gilbert.Seen 25, infra.

[Footnote 14]

The meaning of the first clause is not limited by the specific language in the second clause, which explains the application of the general principle to women employees.

[Footnote 15]

H.R.Rep. No. 95-948, p. 2 (1978), Legislative History of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (Committee Print prepared for the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources), p. 148 (1979) (hereinafter Leg.Hist.).

[Footnote 16]

S.Rep. No. 95-331, pp. 2-3 (1977), Leg.Hist. at 39-40.

[Footnote 17]

Id. at 7-8 ("the bill is merely reestablishing the law as it was understood prior to Gilbert by the EEOC and by the lower courts"); H.R.Rep. No. 95-948, supra, at 8 (same); 123 Cong.Rec. 10581 (1977) (remarks of Rep. Hawkins) ("H.R. 5055 does not really add anything to title VII as I and, I believe, most of my colleagues in Congress when title VII was enacted in 1964 and amended in 1972, understood the prohibition against sex discrimination in employment. For it seems only common sense that, since only women can become pregnant, discrimination against pregnant people is necessarily discrimination against women, and that forbidding discrimination based on sex therefore clearly forbids discrimination based on pregnancy"); id. at 29387 (remarks of Sen. Javits) ("this bill is simply corrective legislation, designed to restore the law with respect to pregnant women employees to the point where it was last year, before the Supreme Court's decision in Gilbert . . ."); id. at 29647; id. at 29655 (remarks of Sen. Javits) ("What we are doing is leaving the situation the way it was before the Supreme Court decided the Gilbert case last year"); 124 Cong.Rec. 21436 (1978) (remarks of Rep. Sarasin) ("This bill would restore the interpretation of title VII prior to that decision").

For statements expressly approving the views of the dissenting Justices that pregnancy discrimination is discrimination on the basis of sex, see Leg.Hist., at 18 (remarks of Sen. Bayh, Mar. 18, 1977, 123 Cong.Rec. 8144); 24 (remarks of Rep. Hawkins, Apr. 5, 1977, 123 Cong.Rec. 10582); 67 (remarks of Sen. Javits, Sept. 15, 1977, 123 Cong.Rec. 29387); 73 (remarks of Sen. Bayh, Sept. 16, 1977, 123 Cong.Rec. 29641); 134 (remarks of Sen. Mathias, Sept. 16, 1977, 123 Cong.Rec. 29663-29664); 168 (remarks of Rep. Sarasin, July 18, 1978, 124 Cong.Rec. 21436). See also Discrimination on the Basis of Pregnancy, 1977, Hearings on S. 995 before the Subcommittee on Labor of the Senate Committee on Human Resources, 95th Cong., 1st Sess., 13 (1977) (statement of Sen. Bayh); id. at 37, 51 (statement of Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Drew S. Days).

[Footnote 18]

In McDonald, the Court held that 42 U.S.C. § 1981, which gives

"[a]ll persons within the jurisdiction of the United States . . . the same right in every State and Territory to make and enforce contracts . . . as is enjoyed by white citizens,"

protects whites against discrimination on the basis of race even though the "immediate impetus for the bill was the necessity for further relief of the constitutionally emancipated former Negro slaves." 427 U.S. at 427 U. S. 289.

[Footnote 19]

This, of course, was true of petitioner's plan prior to the enactment of the statute. See supra at 462 U. S. 672. See S.Rep. No. 95-331, supra,n 16, at 6, Leg.Hist. at 43 ("Presumably because plans which provide comprehensive medical coverage for spouses of women employees, but not spouses of male employees, are rare, we are not aware of any Title VII litigation concerning such plans. It is certainly not this committee's desire to encourage the institution of such plans"); 123 Cong.Rec. 29663 (1977) (remarks of Sen. Cranston); Brief for Respondent 31-33, n. 31.

[Footnote 20]

"Questions were raised in the committee's deliberations regarding how this bill would affect medical coverage for dependents of employees, as opposed to employees themselves. In this context it must be remembered that the basic purpose of this bill is to protect women employees; it does not alter the basic principles of title VII law as regards sex discrimination. Rather, this legislation clarifies the definition of sex discrimination for title VII purposes. Therefore the question in regard to dependents' benefits would be determined on the basis of existing title VII principles."

S.Rep. No. 95-331, supra,n 16, at 5-6, Leg.Hist. at 42-43. This statement does not imply that the new statutory definition has no applicability; it merely acknowledges that the new definition does not itself resolve the question.

The dissent quotes extensive excerpts from an exchange on the Senate floor between Senators Hatch and Williams. Post at 462 U. S. 692-693. Taken in context, this colloquy clearly deals only with the second clause of the bill, seen 14, supra, and Senator Williams, the principal sponsor of the legislation, addressed only the bill's effect on income maintenance plans. Leg.Hist. at 80. Senator Williams first stated, in response to Senator Hatch: "With regard to more maintenance plans for pregnancy-related disabilities, I do not see how this language could be misunderstood." Upon further inquiry from Senator Hatch, he replied: "If there is any ambiguity, with regard to income maintenance plans, I cannot see it." At the end of the same response, he stated:

"It is narrowly drawn, and would not give any employee the right to obtain income maintenance as a result of the pregnancy of someone who is not an employee."

Ibid. These comments, which clearly limited the scope of Senator Williams' responses, are omitted from the dissent's lengthy quotation, post at 462 U. S. 692-693.

Other omitted portions of the colloquy make clear that it was logical to discuss the pregnancies of employees' spouses in connection with income maintenance plans. Senator Hatch asked,

"what about the status of a woman coworker who is not pregnant, but rides with a pregnant woman and cannot get to work once the pregnant female commences her maternity leave, or the employed mother who stays home to nurse her pregnant daughter?"

Leg.Hist. at 80. The reference to spouses of male employees must be understood in light of these hypothetical questions; it seems to address the situation in which a male employee wishes to take time off from work because his wife is pregnant.

[Footnote 21]

See, e.g., 123 Cong.Rec. 7539 (1977) (remarks of Sen. Williams) ("the Court has ignored the congressional intent in enacting title VII of the Civil Rights Act -- that intent was to protect all individuals from unjust employment discrimination, including pregnant workers"); id. at 29385, 29652. In light of statements such as these, it would be anomalous to hold that Congress provided that an employee's pregnancy is sex-based, while a spouse's pregnancy is gender-neutral.

During the course of the Senate debate on the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, Senator Bayh and Senator Cranston both expressed the belief that the new Act would prohibit the exclusion of pregnancy coverage for spouses if spouses were otherwise fully covered by an insurance plan. See id. at 29642, 29663. Because our holding relies on the 1978 legislation only to the extent that it unequivocally rejected the Gilbert decision, and ultimately we rely on our understanding of general Title VII principles, we attach no more significance to these two statements than to the many other comments by both Senators and Congressmen disapproving the Court's reasoning and conclusion in Gilbert.Seen 17, supra.

[Footnote 22]

Consistently since 1970, the EEOC has considered it unlawful under Title VII for an employer to provide different insurance coverage for spouses of male and female employees. See Guidelines On Discrimination Because of Sex, 29 CFR § 1604.9(d) (1982); Commission Decision No. 70-510, CCH EEOC Decisions (1973)

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