General Electric Company v. Gilbert

PETITIONER: General Electric Company
RESPONDENT: Martha V. Gilbert, et al.
LOCATION: General Electric Company plant

DOCKET NO.: 74-1589
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

CITATION: 429 US 125 (1976)
REARGUED: Oct 13, 1976
DECIDED: Dec 07, 1976
ARGUED: Jan 19, 1976 / Jan 20, 1976
GRANTED: Oct 06, 1975

ADVOCATES:
J. Stanley Pottinger - for the United States, as amicus curiae
Ruth Weyand - for Gilbert and others
Theophil C. Kammholz - for General Elec

Facts of the case

General Electric Co. offered its employees a disability plan for non-occupational sicknesses and accidents, but the plan did not cover disabilities from pregnancy. The respondents, a class of female employees of General Electric Company, sued their employer for sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The district court held that the plan violated the Act, and the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed.

Question

Does the exclusion of pregnancy-related benefits from the company disability plan violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964?

Media for General Electric Company v. Gilbert

Audio Transcription for Oral Reargument - October 13, 1976 in General Electric Company v. Gilbert
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 19, 1976 (Part 1) in General Electric Company v. Gilbert
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 20, 1976 (Part 2) in General Electric Company v. Gilbert

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - December 07, 1976 in General Electric Company v. Gilbert

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the Court in 74-1589 and related case 1590, General Electric against Gilbert will be announced by Mr. Justice Rehnquist.

William H. Rehnquist:

The respondent to me is a -- a consolidated cases where women employed by General Electric in a plant at Salem, Virginia, which is located over in the Shenandoah Valley, they brought this class action in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia asserting that the disability benefits program which GE had established for its employees discriminated against women in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

GE's program provided payments to employees who are totally disabled as a result of non-occupational sickness or accident, but it did not provide coverage for employees whose disabilities are pregnancy related.

In this exclusion, it was challenged in this lawsuit.

The District Court agreed with the respondent, the plaintiff and held that the exclusion of pregnancy related disability constituted sex discrimination in violation of Title VII.

A divided Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed and we granted certiorari in order to consider whether the Court of Appeals was correct in concluding that petitioner's program violated Title VII.

For the reason set forth and an opinion which has been filed with the Clerk this morning, we reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

Following our decision three terms ago in the case of Geduldig against Aiello, which dealt with the validity under the Fourteenth Amendment of the similar plan, we now hold that the exclusion of pregnancy related disabilities from a program such as petitioner's does not in itself demonstrates sex discrimination in violation of Title VII.

And since respondent did not otherwise show that the exclusion of pregnancy related disabilities had a just proportion of the fact on one sex as compared with the other, we conclude that respondents are not entitled for the release they seek.

Mr. Justice Stewart has filed a concurring opinion.

Mr. Justice Blackmun has filed an opinion concurring in the judgment.

Mr. Justice Brennan has filed a dissenting opinion in which Mr. Justice Marshall has joined.

Mr. Justice Stevens has filed a dissenting opinion.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you Mr. Justice Rehnquist.