by Anya Prince, Legal Intern
National Women’s Law Center
Usually phone companies try to expand coverage, but not in this case. In AT&T v. Hulteen, another case the Supreme Court agreed to hear next term, the Court will decide whether the phone company has to do the right thing in setting pension benefits for long-term women employees who are retiring.
Before the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978 clearly made such practices unlawful, AT&T gave substantially less leave for pregnancy than for other short-term disabilities.
Today, the women who were treated unequally because they took pregnancy leave before the PDA was passed are facing discrimination once again. Noreen Hulteen is one of four women who sued AT&T after they received notice of their pension benefits. They learned that those benefits were lower than they would otherwise have been because they did not get credit for most of their pregnancy leave.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected AT&T’s claims that the women weren’t entitled to any relief because the company’s denial of credit for pregnancy leave wasn’t illegal when it occurred. Ruling in favor of Hulteen and the other women, the 9th Circuit held that AT&T’s post-PDA decisions to set the discriminatory pensions were unlawful employment practices.
Now, the Supreme Court has decided to review the 9th Circuit’s decision. Thus, women who faced unfair treatment prior to the PDA are at risk of being discriminated against again- this time with their retirement benefits. The National Women’s Law Center will be working to try to make sure that that doesn’t happen – but the Supreme Court’s decision to review the case highlights the continuing risk to women’s rights that we face.