NASHVILLE GAS CO. V. SATTY, 434 U. S. 136 (1977)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Nashville Gas Co. v. Satty, 434 U.S. 136 (1977)

Nashville Gas Co. v. Satty

No. 75-536

Argued October 5, 1977

Decided December 6, 1977

434 U.S. 136


Petitioner employer requires a pregnant employee to take leave of absence. While on such leave, the employee receives no sick pay, such as is paid for nonoccupational disabilities other than pregnancy. She also loses all accumulated job seniority, such as is retained on leaves for other nonoccupational disabilities, with the result that although petitioner will attempt to provide her with temporary work on her return, she will be employed in a permanent position only if no currently employed employee also applies for the position. In respondent employee's action challenging those policies, the District Court held that they violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.


1. Petitioner's policy of denying employees returning from pregnancy leave their accumulated seniority acts both to deprive them "of employment opportunities" and to "adversely affect [their] status as an employee" because of their sex in violation of § 703(a)(2) of Title VII. Pp. 434 U. S. 139-143.

(a) While petitioner's seniority policy is facially neutral in that both male and female employees retain accumulated seniority while on leave for nonoccupational disabilities other than pregnancy, whereas seniority is divested if the employee takes a leave for any other reason, including pregnancy, its discriminatory effect causes it to run afoul of § 703(a)(2). Pp. 434 U. S. 140-141.

(b) Petitioner has not merely refused to extend to women a benefit that men cannot and do not receive, but has imposed on women a substantial burden that men need not suffer. While Title VII does not require that greater economic benefits be paid to one sex or the other because of their different roles, this does not allow § 703(a)(2) to be read so as to permit an employer to burden female employees in such a way as to deprive them of employment opportunities because of their different roles. General Electric Co. v. Gilbert, 429 U. S. 125, distinguished. Pp. 434 U. S. 141-142.

(c) There is no proof of any business necessity justifying the adoption of the seniority policy with respect to pregnancy leave in this case. P. 434 U. S. 143.

Page 434 U. S. 137

2. Petitioner's policy of not awarding sick leave pay to pregnant employees is not a per se violation of Title VII, but the facial neutrality of the policy does not end the analysis if it can be shown that exclusion of pregnancy from the compensation conditions is a mere "pretex[t] designed to effect an invidious discrimination against the members of one sex or the other." Gilbert, supra at 429 U. S. 136. Hence, absent any showing that the decisions below were based on a finding that there was a pretext, the case will be remanded to determine whether respondent preserved the right to proceed further on such theory. Pp. 434 U. S. 143-146.

522 F.2d 850, affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded.

REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and STEWART, WHITE, and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined, and in Part I of which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, and POWELL, JJ., joined. POWELL, J., filed an opinion concurring in the result and concurring in part, in which BRENNAN and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 434 U. S. 146. STEVENS, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 434 U. S. 153.

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