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

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR

THE NINTH CIRCUIT

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

JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question presented is whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, preempts a state statute that requires

Page 479 U. S. 275

employers to provide leave and reinstatement to employees disabled by pregnancy.

I

California's Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Cal.Gov't Code Ann. § 12900 et seq. (West 1980 and Supp. 1986), is a comprehensive statute that prohibits discrimination in employment and housing. In September, 1978, California amended the FEHA to proscribe certain forms of employment discrimination on the basis of pregnancy. See Cal. Labor Code Ann. § 1420.35, 1978 Cal.Stats., ch. 1321, § 1, pp. 4320-4322 (West Supp. 1979), now codified at Cal.Gov't Code Ann. § 12945(b)(2) (West 1980). [Footnote 1] Subdivision (b)(2) -- the provision at issue here -- is the only portion of the statute that applies to employers subject to Title VII. See

Page 479 U. S. 276

§ 12945(e). [Footnote 2] It requires these employers to provide female employees an unpaid pregnancy disability leave of up to four months. Respondent Fair Employment and Housing Commission, the state agency authorized to interpret the FEHA, [Footnote 3] has construed § 12945(b)(2) to require California employers to reinstate an employee returning from such pregnancy leave to the job she previously held, unless it is no longer available due to business necessity. In the latter case, the employer must make a reasonable, good faith effort to place the employee in a substantially similar job. [Footnote 4] The statute does not compel employers to provide paid leave to pregnant employees. Accordingly, the only benefit pregnant workers actually derive from § 12945(b)(2) is a qualified right to reinstatement.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., also prohibits various forms of employment

Page 479 U. S. 277

discrimination, including discrimination on the basis of sex. However, in General Electric Co. v. Gilbert,429 U. S. 125 (1976), this Court ruled that discrimination on the basis of pregnancy was not sex discrimination under Title VII. [Footnote 5] In response to the Gilbert decision, Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(k). The PDA specifies that sex discrimination includes discrimination on the basis of pregnancy. [Footnote 6]

Page 479 U. S. 278

II

Petitioner California Federal Savings & Loan Association (Cal Fed) is a federally chartered savings and loan association based in Los Angeles; it is an employer covered by both Title VII and § 12945(b)(2). Cal Fed has a facially neutral leave policy that permits employees who have completed three months of service to take unpaid leaves of absence for a variety of reasons, including disability and pregnancy. Although it is Cal Fed's policy to try to provide an employee taking unpaid leave with a similar position upon

returning, Cal Fed expressly reserves the right to terminate an employee who has taken a leave of absence if a similar position is not available.

Lillian Garland was employed by Cal Fed as a receptionist for several years. In January, 1982, she took a pregnancy disability leave. When she was able to return to work in April of that year, Garland notified Cal Fed, but was informed that her job had been filled and that there were no receptionist or similar positions available. Garland filed a complaint with respondent Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which issued an administrative accusation against Cal Fed on her behalf. [Footnote 7] Respondent charged Cal Fed with violating § 12945(b)(2) of the FEHA. Prior to the scheduled hearing before respondent Fair Employment and Housing Commission, Cal Fed, joined by petitioners Merchants and Manufacturers Association and the California Chamber of Commerce, [Footnote 8] brought this action in the United States District Court for the Central District of California.

Page 479 U. S. 279

They sought a declaration that § 12945(b)(2) is inconsistent with and preempted by Title VII and an injunction against enforcement of the section. [Footnote 9] The District Court granted petitioners' motion for summary judgment. 33 EPD

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