In the case of Auto Workers V. Johnson Controls, the Plaintiffs brought a class action suit against Johnson Control in federal district courts over illegal sex discrimination under Title VII. The district court entered a summary judgment for Johnson Controls. The court of appeals affirmed the district court’s decision, leading the plaintiff to then appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. J. Blackmun delivered the opinion of the court in which Marshall, Stevens, O’Connor, and Souter joined. J. White filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in judgment, in which Rehnquist and Kennedy joined. J. Scalia filed an opinion concurring in judgment. Case was decided in March 20, 1991.
The defendant, Johnson Controls Inc, is a manufacturer of batteries who rely heavily on the usage lead in their manufacturing process. Johnson Company initially only provided warnings to employees, until 8 female workers became pregnant and were found to have higher levels of lead in their blood then recommended by OSHA. The exposure to lead had been determined to be potentially harmful to a fetus, thus Johnson Controls created a policy excluding women with childbearing abilities from positions where they would be exposed.
In this case the question at hand is whether Johnson Controls fetal-protection policy meets the criteria to be considered a safety exception under the BFOQ set forth in Title VII which allows an employer to discriminate on the basis of sex “in those certain instances where sex is a Bona Fide Occupational Qualification reasonably necessary to the normal operation of particular business.”
No, the decisions over the wellbeing of potential future children are a burden of the parents who conceive them, not their employer.
In this case the court considered the defendant’s argument that discrimination on the basis of sex because of safety concerns is allowed in certain...