Women’s Leader Calls Supreme Court Ruling in AT&T Corp. v. Hulteen Disgraceful, Unfair and a Blow to Equal Opportunity Law
Statement of Debra L. Ness, President, National Partnership for Women & Families
WASHINGTON, DC — May 18, 2009 — "The U.S. Supreme Court today dealt a painful and serious blow to America’s working women and the families who rely on their retirement benefits. Its ruling in AT&T Corp. v. Hulteen forces women to pay a high price today because their employers discriminated yesterday.
In a deeply disappointing 7-2 decision, the Court sided against a group of women who sued their former employer, AT&T Corp., for excluding time spent on pregnancy leave from their retirement benefits. These women were discriminated against prior to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978; the Court’s ruling allows the effect of this discrimination to penalize them and their families forever. Today’s ruling is disgraceful, unfair, and a terrible blow to the equal opportunity laws women and people of color have long relied on.
The decision couldn’t come at a worse time. In the current economic climate, women and their families cannot afford to see their retirement benefits kept lower by discriminatory workplace policies that should have been remedied decades ago.
Today’s decision highlights the need for Supreme Court Justices who have a demonstrated commitment to equal justice. The dissenters, led by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, laid out exactly why the Court should not have allowed AT&T to escape the law and the ways this ruling will harm women.
It is the latest attack on Title VII, which bars employment discrimination based on gender and other factors. In 2007, the Court made it more difficult for women to sue for wage discrimination in another Title VII case involving fair pay. The effects of that ruling were overturned earlier this year when President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law.
Pregnancy discrimination claims are skyrocketing. We need strong laws to protect women from pregnancy discrimination, now more than ever. Today’s ruling is a terrible blow."
The National Partnership for Women & Families is a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy group dedicated to promoting fairness in the workplace, access to quality health care and policies that help women and men meet the dual demands of work and family.