General Electric Company v. Gilbert

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GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY V. GILBERT,

GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY V. GILBERT, 429 U. S. 125 (1976), a Supreme Court ruling which held that employers could legally exclude conditions related to pregnancy from employee sickness and accident benefits plans. In Geduldig v. Aiello (1974)the Court upheld a California disability insurance program's denial of benefits for pregnancy-related disabilities. In Gilbert the Court fell back on Geduldig to rule that exclusion of pregnancy from a health plan did not violate Title VII, an equal employment opportunity provision that introduced a ban on gender discrimination into the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In deciding that such a ban did not discriminate against women, the Court reversed every appeals court that had considered the issue. Justice William Rehnquist's majority opinion pointed out that the plan in question paid out about as much money to female as to male claimants, and that pregnancy differed from other conditions not just because only women become pregnant but also because it is often "voluntarily undertaken and desired." Justice William Brennan's dissent observed that the General Electric Company did not exclude other "voluntarily undertaken" conditions, such as sports injuries, attempted suicides, elective cosmetic surgery, and vasectomies. Rehnquist relied on language from Geduldig, in which Justice Potter Stewart argued that when only pregnant women and nonpregnant persons (including men)were involved, there was no gender discrimination. Congress disagreed with this line of reasoning. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 amended Title VII to prohibit employers from treating pregnancy less favorably than other conditions. The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 further expanded employment protections to pregnant women.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Baer, Judith A. Women in American Law. Vol. 2, The Struggle toward Equality from the New Deal to the Present. New York: Holmes and Meier, 1991.

Hoff, Joan. Law, Gender, and Injustice: A Legal History of U. S. Women. New York: New York University Press, 1991.

Judith A.Baer/a. r.

See alsoFamily and Medical Leave Act ; Pregnancy Discrimination Act ; Discrimination: Sex .