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Pregnancy leave policy found biased.

A Federal District Court ruled that pregnancy leave policies of the former Western Electric Division of American Telephone and Telegraph Company constituted gender-based bias. As a result, up to 30,000 present and former female employees of what is now AT&T Technologies will share in backpay and be credited with additional seniority under a plan to be worked out by individual plaintiffs, the company, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, subject to court approval.

In the case, which began in 1978, the plaintiffs charged that Western Electric's policies denied pregnant workers the same disability leave accorded workers with other medical disabilities. During the 1965 - 69 period, pregnant employees were required to begin maternity leave in the sixth month of pregnancy, regardless of whether they were capable of continuing to work. During the following 2 years, pregnant employees were permitted to continue working until the seventh month, but they could continue to exercise seniority rights only during the first 30 days of leave. As a result, they were not assured of a return to work when their pregnancy disability ended. In contrast, other disabled employees remained on the active job list for up to a year, were automatically entitled to reinstatement unless a layoff occurred during their absence, and accrued seniority during the entire absence.

The pregnancy leave policy, which Western Electric claimed it terminated in 1971, severely limited the employment opportunities of women, in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to the court. The company argued that the case should be dismissed because the statute of limitations had expired, but the court held that the case was valid because Western Electric had continued to violate a 1982 court decision that employees on maternity leave had the same return-to-work rights as employees on other types of disability leave.
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Author:Ruben, George
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Sep 1, 1988
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