Friday, June 15, 2007

7th Circuit: No Associational Discrimination Claim for Men Under PDA

Gavel In the case of Griffin v. Sisters of Saint Francis,Inc., 2007 WL 1611752 (7th Cir. June 6, 2007) (per curiam), the 7th Circuit in a case of first impression considered whether the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) protects a man who is fired because his girlfriend is pregnant.

Mitch Rubinstein at the Adjunct Law Prof Blog briefs the facts and decision in Griffin:

Two unmarried lay employees at Michaela Farm which is owned and operated by an order of Catholic Nuns were suspected of having an affair. The Director had warned them to be "discreet" in their personal relationship and at one point noticed the woman outside the man's apartment at 10:00 pm . . . .

The claim was that both plaintiffs were terminated because the woman got pregnant. Citing to Newport News Shipbuilding v. EEOC, 462 U.S. 669 (1983), the 7th Circuit held that the PDA applies to men and women, but to prevail a plaintiff must establish an adverse employment action because of sex. With respect to the man, the court held that this standard could not be met. The man could not claim that he was a victim of discrimination because the action was not taken because of his sex; rather the action was taken because his girlfriend got pregnant; i.e., because of her sex.

I agree with Mitch on the outcome in this one: "A man who is fired because his girlfriend is pregnant does not state a cause of action, but a woman who gets fired at the same time does. This is the same type of tortured reasoning that lead to the Supreme Court's decision in GE v Gilbert, 429 U.S. 125 (1976) (holding that classification on pregnancy does not necessarily violate Title VII), which was legislatively overruled by the enactment of the PDA. 

Unfortunately, unlike Gilbert, I don't see this case being legislatively overruled.


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