California Fed. S & L v. Guerra
479 U.S. 272 (1987)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

California Fed. S & L v. Guerra, 479 U.S. 272 (1987)

California Federal Savings & Loan Assn. v. Guerra,

Director, Department of Fair Employment and Housing

No. 85-494

Argued October 8, 1986

Decided January 13, 1987

479 U.S. 272

Syllabus

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act, in § 12945(b)(2), requires employers to provide leave and reinstatement to employees disabled by pregnancy. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), specifies that sex discrimination includes discrimination on the basis of pregnancy. A woman employed as a receptionist by petitioner California Federal Savings & Loan Association (Cal Fed) took a pregnancy disability leave in 1982, but, when she notified Cal Fed that she was able to return to work, she was informed that her job had been filled and that there were no similar positions available. She then filed a complaint with respondent Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which charged Cal Fed with violating § 12945(b)(2). Before a hearing was held on the complaint, Cal Fed, joined by the other petitioners, brought an action in Federal District Court, seeking a declaration that § 12945(b)(2) is inconsistent with and preempted by Title VII, and an injunction against its enforcement. The District Court granted summary judgment for petitioners, but the Court of Appeals reversed.

Held: The judgment is affirmed.

758 F.2d 390, affirmed.

JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, III-B, III-C, and IV, concluding that § 12945(b)(2) is not preempted by Title VII, as amended by the PDA, because it is not inconsistent with the purposes of Title VII, nor does it require the doing of an act that is unlawful under Title VII. Pp. 479 U. S. 284-292.

(a) Title VII's purpose is

"to achieve equality of employment opportunities and remove barriers that have operated in the past to favor an identifiable group of . . . employees over other employees."

Griggs v. Duke Power Co.,401 U. S. 424, 401 U. S. 429-430. Rather than limiting Title VII principles and objectives, the PDA extends them to cover pregnancy. Section 12945(b)(2) also promotes equal employment opportunity. By requiring employers to reinstate women after a reasonable

Page 479 U. S. 273

pregnancy disability leave, it ensures that they will not lose their jobs on account of pregnancy. Pp. 479 U. S. 284-290.

(b) Section 12945(b)(2) does not prevent employers from complying with both the federal law (as construed by petitioners to reject California's "special treatment" approach to pregnancy discrimination and to forbid .an employer to treat pregnant employees any differently than other disabled employees) and the state law. This is not a case where compliance with both the federal and state laws is a physical impossibility. Section 12945(b)(2) does not compel employers to treat pregnant employees better than other disabled employees; it merely establishes benefits that employers must, at a minimum, provide to pregnant workers. Pp. 479 U. S. 290-292.

JUSTICE MARSHALL, joined by JUSTICE BRENNAN, JUSTICE BLACKMUN, and JUSTICE O'CONNOR, concluded in Part III-A that both §§ 708 and 1104 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 severely limit Title VII's preemptive effect by leaving state fair employment laws where they were before Title VII was enacted. Pp. 479 U. S. 280-284.

JUSTICE STEVENS concluded that, for purposes of holding that § 12945(b)(2) is not preempted by Title VII, it is not necessary to reach the question whether § 1104 applies to Title VII or whether § 708 is the only provision governing Title VII's preemptive scope. Pp. 479 U. S. 292-293, n. 1.

JUSTICE SCALIA concluded that the only provision whose effect on preemption need be considered is § 708 of Title VII, which prohibits preemption unless a state law requires or permits the doing of an act outlawed by the PDA. Because § 12945(b)(2) does not require or permit the doing of an act outlawed under any interpretation of the PDA, it is not preempted. Accordingly it is unnecessary to decide how the PDA should be interpreted. Pp. 479 U. S. 295-296.

MARSHALL, J., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, III-B, III-C, and IV, in which BRENNAN, BLACKMUN, STEVENS, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined, and an opinion with respect to Part III-A, in which BRENNAN, BLACKMUN, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, post, p. 479 U. S. 292. SCALIA, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 479 U. S. 295. WHITE, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and POWELL, J., joined, post, p. 479 U. S. 297.

Page 479 U. S. 274

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