Geduldig v. Aiello

PETITIONER:Geduldig, Director, Department of Human Resources Development
RESPONDENT:Carolyn Aiello et al.
LOCATION:California Employment Development Department

DOCKET NO.: 73-640
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)

CITATION: 417 US 484 (1974)
ARGUED: Mar 26, 1974
DECIDED: Jun 17, 1974

Joanne Condas – Deputy Attorney General of California, argued the cause for appellant
Wendy W. Williams – argued the cause for appellees

Facts of the case

Carolyn Aiello experienced disability as a result of complications during her pregnancy. She was ineligible for benefits from California’s Disability Fund under Section 2626 of California’s Unemployment Insurance Code. Section 2626 denied benefits to women whose disabilities resulted from pregnancy. Aiello and other disabled women who were denied benefits under Section 2626 challenged the statute as a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The United States District Court for the Northern District of California held the statute unconstitutional. The state appealed to the Supreme Court.


Did Section 2626 of California’s Unemployment Insurance Code violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?

Media for Geduldig v. Aiello

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – March 26, 1974 in Geduldig v. Aiello

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – June 17, 1974 in Geduldig v. Aiello

Warren E. Burger:

The disposition of 73-640, Geduldig against Aiello and 73-781, Scherk against Alberto-Culver Co. will each be announced by Mr. Justice Stewart.

Potter Stewart:

Now, the first of these cases, Geduldig against Aiello is here on appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

For almost 30 years, California has administered a Disability Insurance System that pays benefits to people in private employment who are temporarily unable to work because of disability, not covered by Workmen’s Compensation.

The appellees brought this action in a Three-Judge District Court to challenge the constitutionality of a provision of the California program that in defining the disability, excludes from coverage, disability resulting from normal pregnancy.

The District Court, by a divided vote, held that this provision of the insurance program violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and therefore, the court enjoined the continued enforcement of the program with this provision in it.

We cannot agree that the exclusion of this disability from coverage amounts to invidious discrimination under the Equal Protection Clause.

California does not discriminate with respect to the persons or groups who are eligible for disability insurance protection.

The classification challenged in this case relates rather to the asserted underinclusiveness of the set of risks that the State has selected to insure.

Although California has created a program to insure most risks of employment disability, it has not chosen to insure all such risks, and this decision is reflected in the level of annual contributions exacted from participating employees.

It is evident that our totally comprehensive program would be substantially more costly than the present program and would inevitably require state subsidy, a higher rate of employee contribution, a lower scale of benefits for those suffering insured disabilities, or some combination of these three measures.

There is nothing in the Constitution, we think, that requires the State to subordinate or compromise its legitimate interests solely to create a more comprehensive social insurance program than it already has.

The State has a legitimate interest in maintaining the self-supporting nature of its insurance program. Similarly, it has an interest in distributing the available resources in such a way as to keep benefit payments at an adequate level for disabilities that are covered, rather than to cover all disabilities inadequately.

Finally, California has a legitimate concern in maintaining the contribution rate at a level that will not unduly burden participating employees, particularly low-income employees who may be most in need of the disability insurance.

These policies provide an objective and wholly non-invidious basis for the State’s decision not to create a more comprehensive insurance program than it has.

There is no evidence in the record that the selection of the risks insured by the program worked to discriminate against any definable group or class in terms of the aggregate risk protection derived by that group or class from the program.

There is no risk from which men are protected and women are not.

Likewise, there is no risk from which women are protected and men are not.

The appellee simply contend that, although they have received insurance protection equivalent to that provided all other participating employees, they have suffered discrimination because they’ve encountered a risk that was outside the program’s protection.

For the reasons, I have summarized, which are set out in considerably more detail in the court’s written opinion, we hold that this contention is not a valid one under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and accordingly the judgment of the District Court is reversed.

Mr. Justice Brennan has filed a dissenting opinion in which he is joined by Mr. Justice Douglas and Mr. Justice Marshall.