459 U.S. 1150 (1983)

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U.S. Supreme Court

PORCHER v. BROWN , 459 U.S. 1150 (1983)

459 U.S. 1150

Frances E. PORCHER, etc., et al.
Mary E. BROWN, etc., et al
No. 81-1972

Supreme Court of the United States

January 17, 1983

On petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

The petition for writ of certiorari is denied.

Justice WHITE, with whom Justice POWELL and Justice REHNQUIST join, dissenting from the denial of certiorari.

Every state in the Union maintains an unemployment compensation system which provides partial wage replacement for the unemployed. The federal government credits employer contributions to state unemployment programs meeting certain federal requirements against the amount owing under the Federal Unemployment Tax Act, 26 U.S.C. 3301 et seq. One of the requirements which state plans

Page 459 U.S. 1150 , 1151

must meet is that "no person shall be denied [unemployment] compensation under . . . State law solely on the basis of pregnancy or termination of pregnancy." 26 U.S.C. 3304(a)(12). The Fourth Circuit, in the opinion below, Brown v. Porcher, 660 F.2d 1001 (1981), held that the South Carolina Unemployment Compensation System did not meet the requirements of 3304(a)(12), and upheld a district court order requiring the South Carolina Employment Security Commission ("the Commission") to make retroactive payments to claimants that had been denied compensation since January 1, 1978. In so doing, the Fourth Circuit decided three issues that merit this Court's attention.

The most important issue now presented for this Court's consideration involves the meaning of 3304(a)(12). South Carolina Code 41-35-120 provides that a person will not be eligible for unemployment benefits "if the [South Carolina Employment Security] Commission finds that he has left voluntarily without good cause his most recent work." The Commission has determined that resignation due to pregnancy or to an illness unrelated to the claimant's job makes the claimant ineligible for unemployment benefits . The Fourth Circuit held that 41-35-120, as interpreted, did not satisfy the dictates of 3304(a)(12). It said, "[r]egardless of how the Commission treats employees with other disabilities, the mandate of [ 3304(a)(12) ] is clear: the Commission cannot deny compensation 'solely on the basis of pregnancy or termination of pregnancy.' " Brown v. Porcher, supra, at 1004.

It is by no means clear, however, that 3304(a)(12) does not simply provide that pregnancy must be treated like all other disabilities-that pregnancy simply cannot be singled out for unfavorable treatment. The Department of Labor adheres to such an interpretation, and thus disagrees with the Fourth Circuit's interpretation of 3304(a)(12). The Department of Labor is responsible for annually determining whether state unemployment compensation programs meet the requirements set out in federal law. 26 U.S.C. [459 U.S. 1150 , 1152]

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