On March 20, 2001, several female employees of Pacific Telephone and Telegraph ("PT & T", a subsidiary of AT&T) filed a lawsuit under Title VII and ERISA against defendants AT & T in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Francisco Division. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, asked the court for monetary damages and equitable relief.
While at PT & T, each of the female plaintiffs took temporary leaves of absence due to pregnancy prior to 1979. Pursuant to policies in place at the time, PT & T did not give "service credit" to women who took temporary disability leaves due to pregnancy during the time they were on leave, while it did offer such credit to employees who were on temporary leave due to other disabilities. Service credit is important because it affects "Net Credited Service" ("NCS"), which in turn affects other job benefits such as pension payments, seniority for layoffs, etc. The NCS for each plaintiff calculated by PT & T was carried over to AT & T when they became AT & T employees.
The plaintiffs alleged that the failure to credit them with the time they were on disability leave due to pregnancy constituted discrimination on the basis of sex, in violation of Title VII, and was a breach of the AT & T benefit plan's fiduciary duty to treat all plan members equally, in violation of the ERISA.
On August 11, 2003, the district court (Judge Martin Jenkins) granted the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment as to the Title VII claim, but denied the plaintiffs' motion as to the ERISA claim. The district court's order was based on 1) the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1979 ("PDA"), which includes pregnancy under the umbrella of discrimination due to sex, and 2) the 9th Circuit case Pallas v. Pacific Bell, 940 F.2d 1324, which held that Pacific Bell violated Title VII in calculating retirement benefits after PDA, when it gave service credit for all pre-PDA temporary disability leave except leave by reason of pregnancy.
AT & T appealed, and on March 8, 2006, a panel of the 9th Circuit reversed the district court. Hulteen v. AT & T Corp., 441 F.3d 653. However, on July 19, 2006, the 9th Circuit decided to review the case en banc. Hulteen v. AT & T Corp., 455 F.3d 973.
On August 17, 2007, the 9th Circuit affirmed the district court by an en banc decision. Hulteen v. AT & T Corp., 498 F.3d 1001.
However, on May 18, 2009, the Supreme Court reversed the 9th Circuit, holding that an employer does not necessarily violate the PDA when it pays pension benefits calculated in part under accrual rule, applied only pre-PDA, that gave less retirement credit for pregnancy than for medical leave generally. AT & T Corp. v. Hulteen, 129 S.Ct. 1962.
On August 10, 2009, the district court dismissed the case.Kunyi Zhang - 08/19/2010