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Case Name International Union v. Johnson Controls, Inc. EE-WI-0058
Docket / Court 2:84-cv-00472 ( E.D. Wis. )
State/Territory Wisconsin
Case Type(s) Equal Employment
Special Collection Private Employment Class Actions
Case Summary
In April of 1984 plaintiffs filed suit against Johnson Controls Inc., their employer, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin alleging sex and pregnancy discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as modified by the Pregnancy ... read more >
In April of 1984 plaintiffs filed suit against Johnson Controls Inc., their employer, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin alleging sex and pregnancy discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as modified by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The suit concerned a 1982 policy the defendant had adopted that forbade all women, unless it was medically documented that the employee was infertile, from performing jobs that could possibly expose them to lead and cause birth defects. The plaintiffs alleged that this disparate treatment of female employees resulted in discrimination regarding hiring, pay, work conditions, seniority, layoffs, training, benefits, recruiting, demotions and advancement. It was additionally alleged that the policy discriminated against male employees who sought to be transferred or given a leave of absence when attempting to conceive but were not allowed to do so. Plaintiffs sought injunctive relief and damages.

On February 25, 1985 the district court (Judge Robert W. Warren) certified a class containing all past, present, and future members of the plaintiff unions who had worked, did work, or would work in the battery manufacturing division from 1982. On January 21, 1988 the court (Judge Warren) granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment holding that the plaintiffs had not shown that there was a better alternative to the policy that would protect against the serious dangers exposures to lead can cause to fetuses and thus that the policy was a business necessity.

Plaintiffs appealed to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and on September 26, 1989 the court (Judges Bauer, Cummings, Wood Jr., Cudahy, Posner, Coffey, Flaum, Easterbrook, Ripple, Manion, and Kanne) affirmed the district court seven to four. The Plaintiffs thereafter appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States and were granted a writ of certiorari. Oral arguments were heard on October 10, 1990 and on March 20, 1991 the Supreme Court (Justices Blackmun, Marshall, Stevens, O'Connor, Souter, White, Rehnquist, Kennedy, and Scalia) unanimously reversed. The Supreme Court ruled that the policy in question violated Title VII since it was facially discriminatory and gender was not a bona fide occupational qualification in this case. Decisions regarding the welfare of future generations were the province of parents and so long as the defendant did not act negligently it would not be liable in tort.

The case was remanded to the district court and on January 19, 1994 the parties entered into a consent decree and settlement forbidding the discrimination in question and awarding the plaintiff class monetary damages reported to be in the high six figures.

Michael Perry - 09/24/2010

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Affected Gender
Content of Injunction
Discrimination Prohibition
Discharge / Constructive Discharge / Layoff
Harassment / Hostile Work Environment
Other Conditions of Employment (including assignment, transfer, hours, working conditions, etc)
Pay / Benefits
Pregnancy discrimination
Sex discrimination
Disparate Impact
Disparate Treatment
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Title VII (including PDA), 42 U.S.C. ยง 2000e
Defendant(s) Johnson Controls, Inc.
Plaintiff Description All past, present, and future production and maintenance employees in bargaining units represented by Intl. Union, United Automobile, Aero and Agri Implement Workers of America, who were affected by the defendant's Fetal Protection Policy.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year 1994
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Megacases, Diversity, and the Elusive Goal of Workplace Reform
Written: Mar. 01, 2008
By: Nancy Levit (University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law)
Citation: 49 B.C. L. Rev. 367 (2008)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Second Generation Employment Discrimination: A Structural Approach
By: Susan Sturm (Columbia Law School)
Citation: 101 Colum. L. Rev. 458 (2001)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

2:84-cv-00472 (E.D. Wis.) 05/24/1994
EE-WI-0058-9000 PDF | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Decision and Order (Granting defendant's motion for summary judgment) 01/21/1988 (680 F.Supp. 309) (E.D. Wis.)
EE-WI-0058-0001 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | External Link | Detail
Opinion (Affirming the district court) 09/26/1989 (886 F.2d 871)
EE-WI-0058-0002 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | External Link | Detail
EE-WI-0058-0005 PDF | Detail
Document Source: LexisNexis
EE-WI-0058-0006 PDF | Detail
Document Source: LexisNexis
EE-WI-0058-0007 PDF | Detail
Document Source: LexisNexis
Oral Argument 10/10/1990
EE-WI-0058-0004 PDF | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Opinion (U.S. Supreme Court, Reversing the Seventh Circuit and remanding for further proceedings) 03/20/1991 (499 U.S. 187)
EE-WI-0058-0003 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | External Link | Detail
Judges Bauer, William Joseph (Seventh Circuit, N.D. Ill.)
Blackmun, Harry Andrew (Eighth Circuit, SCOTUS)
EE-WI-0058-0003 | EE-WI-0058-0004
Coffey, John Louis (Seventh Circuit)
Cudahy, Richard Dickson (Seventh Circuit)
Cummings, Jeffrey Irvine Court not on record
Easterbrook, Frank Hoover (Seventh Circuit)
Flaum, Joel Martin (Seventh Circuit, N.D. Ill.)
Kanne, Michael Stephen (Seventh Circuit, N.D. Ind.)
Kennedy, Anthony McLeod (Ninth Circuit, SCOTUS)
EE-WI-0058-0003 | EE-WI-0058-0004
Manion, Daniel Anthony (Seventh Circuit)
Marshall, Thurgood (Second Circuit, SCOTUS)
EE-WI-0058-0003 | EE-WI-0058-0004
O'Connor, Sandra Day (SCOTUS)
EE-WI-0058-0003 | EE-WI-0058-0004
Posner, Richard Allen (Seventh Circuit)
Rehnquist, William Hubbs (SCOTUS)
EE-WI-0058-0003 | EE-WI-0058-0004
Ripple, Kenneth Francis (Seventh Circuit)
Scalia, Antonin (D.C. Circuit, SCOTUS)
EE-WI-0058-0003 | EE-WI-0058-0004
Souter, David Hackett (First Circuit, SCOTUS)
EE-WI-0058-0003 | EE-WI-0058-0004
Stevens, John Paul (Seventh Circuit, SCOTUS)
EE-WI-0058-0003 | EE-WI-0058-0004
Warren, Robert Willis (FISCR, E.D. Wis.)
EE-WI-0058-0001 | EE-WI-0058-9000
White, Byron Raymond (SCOTUS)
EE-WI-0058-0003 | EE-WI-0058-0004
Wood, Harlington Jr. (Seventh Circuit, S.D. Ill.)
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Berzon, Marsha Siegel (California)
EE-WI-0058-0004 | EE-WI-0058-0005 | EE-WI-0058-0007
Clauss, Carin Ann (Wisconsin)
EE-WI-0058-0005 | EE-WI-0058-0007
Gold, Laurence E. (District of Columbia)
EE-WI-0058-0005 | EE-WI-0058-0007
Horwitz, Miriam R. (Wisconsin)
Jones, Ralph (Michigan)
EE-WI-0058-0005 | EE-WI-0058-0007 | EE-WI-0058-9000
Rossen, Jordan (Michigan)
EE-WI-0058-0005 | EE-WI-0058-0007
Defendant's Lawyers Curtis, Charles G. Jr. (Wisconsin)
Jaspan, Stanley (Wisconsin)
EE-WI-0058-0004 | EE-WI-0058-0006 | EE-WI-0058-9000
Kennedy, John P. (Wisconsin)
Maisa, Susan (Wisconsin)
EE-WI-0058-0006 | EE-WI-0058-9000
Sorensen, Anita M. (Wisconsin)
Other Lawyers None on record

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