The opinion of the court was delivered by: GOURLEY
This is a civil rights proceeding filed by the plaintiff, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, against the defendant, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, in behalf of Harriet Baum and all other similarly situated female employees of the defendant hospital for alleged violations of the Civil Rights Act, more particularly, Sections 703(a) and 704(a) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C.A. § 2000e et seq. The court has held a full and complete trial in this proceeding and afforded counsel every opportunity to present any and all evidence, oral or documentary in nature, to support their respective positions.
The facts may be briefly stated. Harriet Baum, a female, was first employed by the defendant, Children's Hospital, as a growth and developmental specialist in its Developmental Clinic, on August 7, 1968. Throughout her employment with the Children's Hospital, Harriet Baum worked thirty hours per week and was granted vacation pay and sick pay in amounts equal to three quarters to those granted to full-time employees.
When Mrs. Baum learned of her pregnancy in January of 1973, she immediately notified her supervisor, Dr. Grace Gregg, of her condition and communicated her desire to return to work following a leave of absence. Mrs. Baum also sought and requested of defendant to have her unpaid leave of absence begin at the end of her accumulated sick days and vacation days. Suffice to say, Mrs. Baum was subsequently informed that her leave of absence was approved; however, her request to have her accumulated sick days used up prior to the beginning of her leave of absence was denied as being contrary to hospital policy. Thereafter, on May 10, 1973, Harriet Baum filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission a charge against the defendant alleging discrimination through its denial to permit her to use the accumulated sick leave for a maternity related disability.
Mrs. Baum remained in the defendant's employ until July 20, 1973, just four days prior to the birth of her daughter on July 24, 1973. Since Mrs. Baum did not begin her maternity leave until August 21, 1973, at the conclusion of her vacation days, she was not scheduled to return to work until November 30, 1973. Accordingly, Mrs. Baum contacted the defendant in the early part of November, 1973, indicating that she was willing and ready to return to work at the conclusion of her maternity leave which was to have ended on November 30, 1973. However, on November 23, 1973, Mrs. Baum received a letter from defendant notifying her that due to economic cuts in the hospital's budget, her position as a growth and developmental specialist had been eliminated and that her services at the hospital were no longer required. This notice and action by the defendant prompted Mrs. Baum to file a second charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on November 26, 1973, alleging that her discharge was due to the previous charge filed against the defendant with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
It is the plaintiff's contention that the defendant hospital's policy of prohibiting female employees to use their accumulated sick leave for pregnancy or child-birth related disabilities discriminated against women employees in violation of Title VII.
Defendant, on the other hand, asserts that this policy is not in violation of Title VII in that sick leave is not a part of wages or salary and that said "sick leave policy" is administered and applied upon the same terms and conditions to all employees, male or female, pregnant or not. More particularly, that no employee is permitted to schedule sick days prior to the actual date of illness and that sick days can only be applied when an employee is scheduled to work.
The court is satisfied after a full and complete trial and after considering the briefs and arguments of counsel that the defendant's sick leave policy which prohibited Harriet Baum from using her accumulated sick leave prior to commencing her leave of absence was discriminatory and in violation of Title VII. The principal aim of Title VII is to protect employees from any form of disparate treatment because of, inter alia, sex, absent a compelling and founded reason for such disparity. Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, § 701 et seq.; 42 U.S.C.A. § 2000e et seq.
The law with respect to rights of the pregnant employee is becoming most firm and definite and consistent with the teachings of Griggs v. Duke Power Co., 401 U.S. 424, 91 S. Ct. 849, 28 L. Ed. 2d 158 (1971), the court has accorded great deference to the Commission's guidelines as providing the proper interpretation of Title VII.
"Disabilities caused or contributed to by pregnancy, miscarriage, abortion, child-birth, and recovery therefrom are, for all job-related purposes, temporary disabilities and should be treated as such under any health or temporary disability insurance or sick leave plan available in connection with employment. Written and unwritten employment policies and practices involving matters such as the commencement and duration of leave, the availability of extensions, the accrual of seniority and other benefits and privileges, reinstatement, and payment under any health or temporary disability insurance or sick leave plan, formal or informal, shall be applied to disability due to pregnancy or childbirth on the same terms and conditions as they are applied to other temporary disabilities." Employment Policies Relating to Pregnancy and Childbirth, 29 C.F.R. § 1604.10(b) (1972).
The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Liberty Mutual Insurance Company v. Wetzel, 421 U.S. 987, 95 S. Ct. 1989, 44 L. Ed. 2d 476 511 F.2d 199 (3rd Cir. 1975) (vacated and remanded on other grounds), affirmed the District Court's decision on the merits in which it was found that the insurance benefits and maternity leave regulations of the employer, Liberty Mutual, discriminated against women in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.A., § 2000e et seq. The employer, Liberty Mutual, had excluded maternity benefits from its income protection plan and the court viewed this type of practice as treating persons in a disparate manner. The court went on to state:
". . . We believe that pregnancy should be treated as any other temporary disability. Employers offer disability insurance plans to their employees to alleviate the economic burdens caused by the loss of income and the incurrence of medical expenses that arise from the inability to work.
A woman, disabled by pregnancy, has much in common with a person disabled by a temporary illness. They both suffer a loss of income because of absence from work; they both incur medical expenses; and the pregnant woman will probably have hospital expenses while the other person may have none, choosing to convalesce at home.
Thus pregnancy is no different than any other temporary disability under an income protection plan offered to help employees through the ...