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U.S. Supreme Court

Newport News Shipbuilding Co. v. EEOC, 462 U.S. 669 (1983)

Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co. v.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

No. 82-411

Argued April 27, 1983

Decided June 20, 1983

462 U.S. 669


Section 703(a)(1) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discriminate against an employee with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of the employee's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Title VII was amended in 1978 by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of pregnancy. Petitioner employer then amended its health insurance plan to provide its female employees with hospitalization benefits for pregnancy-related conditions to the same extent as for other medical conditions, but the plan provided less extensive pregnancy benefits for spouses of male employees. Petitioner filed an action in Federal District Court challenging the EEOC's guidelines which indicated that the amended plan was unlawful, and the EEOC in turn filed an action against petitioner alleging discrimination on the basis of sex against male employees in petitioner's provision of hospitalization benefits. The District Court upheld the lawfulness of petitioner's amended plan and dismissed the EEOC's complaint. On a consolidated appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed.

Held: The pregnancy limitation in petitioner's amended health plan discriminates against male employees in violation of § 703(a)(1). Pp. 462 U. S. 676-685.

(a) Congress, by enacting the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, not only overturned the holding of General Electric Co. v. Gilbert, 429 U. S. 125, that the exclusion of disabilities caused by pregnancy from an employer's disability plan providing general coverage did not constitute discrimination based on sex, but also rejected the reasoning employed in that case that differential treatment of pregnancy is not gender-based discrimination because only women can become pregnant. Pp. 462 U. S. 676-682.

(b) The Pregnancy Discrimination Act makes it clear that it is discriminatory to exclude pregnancy coverage from an otherwise inclusive benefits plan. Thus, petitioner's health plan unlawfully gives married male employees a benefit package for their dependents that is less inclusive than the dependency coverage provided to married female employees. Pp. 462 U. S. 682-684.

(c) There is no merit to petitioner's argument that the prohibitions of Title VII do not extend to pregnant, spouses because the statute applies only to discrimination in employment. Since the Pregnancy Discrimination

Page 462 U. S. 670

Act makes it clear that discrimination based on pregnancy is, on its face, discrimination based on sex, and since the spouse's sex is always the opposite of the employee's sex, discrimination against female spouses in the provision of fringe benefits is also discrimination against male employees. Pp. 462 U. S. 684-685.

682 F.2d 113, affirmed.

STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. REHNQUIST, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which POWELL, J., joined, post, p. 462 U. S. 685.

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