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Supreme Court rules against retroactive application of pregnancy discrimination law

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] Monday ruled [opinion, PDF] 7-2 in AT&T Corp. v. Hulteen [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] that companies do not violate the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) [EEOC backgrounder] by failing to award employees credit for maternity leave taken before the act's effective date. The Court found that although the method of calculating benefits used by AT&T would be prohibited on gender discrimination grounds if enacted today, the act does not apply retroactively and therefore overruled a 2007 decision [opinion, PDF] by Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals [official website], which found that the pension plan was discriminatory. The Court also rejected Hulteen's claim that the payment of benefits accrued under the pre-PDA plan marks a new instance of discrimination under the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 [S.181 materials; JURIST report], finding that, because the initial decision was not itself discriminatory, Hulteen has not been "affected by application of a discriminatory compensation decision or other practice" within the meaning of the statute. Justice David Souter delivered the Court's opinion. Justice John Paul Stevens concurred. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, joined by Justice Stephen Breyer, dissented, finding that AT&T "committed a current violation of Title VII when, post-PDA,it did not totally discontinue reliance upon a pension calculation premised on the notion that pregnancy-based classifications display no gender bias."

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