Auto Workers vs. Johnson Controls, Inc, 499 U.S. 187 (1991)

Topics: Pregnancy, Supreme Court of the United States, United States Pages: 2 (546 words) Published: November 17, 2008
Auto Workers vs. Johnson Controls, Inc, 499 U.S. 187 (1991)

The defendant, Johnson Controls Inc, manufactures batteries; these batteries contain lead as a primary ingredient in the manufacturing process. Only after 8 female employees became pregnant and were found to have lead levels in their blood higher than the recommended Occupational Safety and Health Administration standard, Johnson Controls, Inc. determined that a female employee who has been exposed to lead is putting any fetus that she carries at risk. Due to this potential harm, Johnson Controls has created a policy excluding women with childbearing capabilities from lead-exposed jobs. Numerous auto workers sued in a federal district court class action alleging that Johnson Controls' policy constituted illegal sex discrimination under Title VII. Title VII prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin in hiring, firing, job assignments, pa, access to training, and apprenticeship programs. The district court entered a summary judgment for Johnson Controls, Inc. The court of appeals affirmed the district court's decision. The plaintiffs then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Does a policy of excluding women with childbearing capabilities fall within the so-called safety exception of the bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ), which states that an employer may discriminate on the basis of "religion, sex, or national origin in those certain instances where religion, sex, or national origin is a bona fide occupational qualification reasonably necessary to the normal operation of that particular business or enterprise.” HOLDING

No, because Title VII was amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). The PDA states that decisions about the welfare of future children must be left to the parents who conceive, bear, support, and raise them rather than to the employers who hire those parents. Therefore, sex-specific fetal-protection...
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