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Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

462 U.S. 669 (1983)

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Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

United States Supreme Court

462 U.S. 669 (1983)

Facts

The United States Supreme Court held in General Electric Co. v. Gilbert, 429 U.S. 125 (1976), that an employer’s disability plan that excluded pregnancy-related disabilities from coverage did not discriminate based on sex. The Court reasoned that the plan divided employees into two groups for purposes of disability coverage: pregnant women and individuals who are not pregnant. Because the latter group included both men and women, the court reasoned that there was no sex-based discrimination. The dissent argued that the majority’s analysis was erroneous because the plan extended full coverage to male employees but extended only partial coverage to female employees. A proper analysis, argued the dissent, would categorize employees based on those who face a risk of pregnancy and those who do not. Two years later, Congress enacted the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), which amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) to prohibit “sex discrimination on the basis of pregnancy.” Both the House and Senate committee reports on the PDA explicitly approved of the dissent’s analysis in Gilbert. Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co. (company) (plaintiff) offered its employees a health-insurance plan that provided full coverage for pregnancy-related hospitalizations to its female employees but limited coverage to the wives of its male employees. After an employee filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), claiming that the company’s policy violated Title VII, the company filed an action in federal district court, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. The district court found that the company’s plan did not violate Title VII. The court of appeals reversed, finding that the plan unlawfully discriminated against male employees. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Stevens, J.)

Dissent (Rehnquist, J.)

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