RESPONDENT: Guerra, Director, Department of Fair Employment and Housing
LOCATION: United States Tax Court
DOCKET NO.: 85-494
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-1987)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
CITATION: 479 US 272 (1987)
ARGUED: Oct 08, 1986
DECIDED: Jan 13, 1987
Marian M. Johnston - on behalf of the Respondents
Theodore B. Olson - on behalf of the Petitioners
Facts of the case
Media for California Federal Savings & Loan Assn. v. Guerra, Director, Department of Fair Employment and Housing
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 08, 1986 in California Federal Savings & Loan Assn. v. Guerra, Director, Department of Fair Employment and Housing
William H. Rehnquist:
We will hear arguments first this morning No. 85-494, California Federal Savings and Loan Association versus Mark Guerra.
Mr. Olson, you may proceed.
Theodore B. Olson:
Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:
This case comes to this Court on writ of certiorari to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals after that Court reversed a District Court summary judgment in favor of petitioners.
This case presents a conflict between two statutes.
Federal law forbids employers to discriminate for any employment purpose on the basis of pregnancy.
California law, on the other hand, requires employers to provide special job protections to employees disabled by pregnancy.
The question presented by this case is whether the federal mandate of equal protection prevails over the state policy of special protection.
The facts of this case are as follows.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the PDA, makes it an unlawful employment practice to discriminate against any individual on the basis of sex, including pregnancy.
The PDA expressly requires that women affected by pregnancy shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes as persons experiencing other disabilities similarly affecting their ability to work.
Petitioners comply with Title VII by implementing employment policies which treat pregnancy exactly the same as other temporary conditions which might affect an employee's ability to work.
Such policies vary, but as relevant here, do not provide immediate guaranteed reinstatement rights on return from disability.
In contrast, California's statute requires employers to grant up to four months' leave for pregnancy, with a right to return to the same or similar position.
As respondents' brief puts it, and summarizes the California requirement, the California statute guarantees reasonable unpaid leave and reinstatement of female employees disabled by pregnancy; and thus ensures that pregnancy disability will not cause female employees to lose their jobs.
Petitioners' declaratory relief action was resolved in District Court on cross motions for summary judgment based on stipulated facts.
The District Court ruled for petitioners, concluding that the state law requires preferential treatment for female employees, and was therefore inconsistent with, and preempted by, Title VII.
The Ninth Circuit reversed.
There are two basic conflicts presented by this case.
In summary, they are as follows.
One, the equal treatment versus special treatment issue.
Petitioner, along with the United States, the National Organization of Women, the United States Chamber of Commerce, the American Civil Liberties Union, and numerous others contend that federal law categorically and unambiguously forbids pregnancy discrimination and requires that employers treat pregnancy on the same basis as other temporary disabilities.
California adheres to a diametrically opposed philosophy, that pregnancy requires that women be treated differently in order that may be treated equally.
Sandra Day O'Connor:
Well, Mr. Olson, I guess in theory, an employer could comply with the California state law by offering female employees the pregnancy leave, and comply with Title VII by offering comparable leave to other disabled employees.
And if that is the case, how is the California law preemptive?
I guess in theory that's certainly one way to approach it.
Theodore B. Olson:
It is in theory one way to approach it.
And it is theoretically possible, as you suggest.
We submit that that is an end run, as the United States put it in their brief, around the extension versus validation issue, which is the same... which is the second issue that I was going to mention and summarize; that in essence, it would require employers to bring up the benefits that they are required by California law to give to female employees who are pregnant, to all employees suffering any disability that would take them away from work.
Byron R. White:
How would you do that?