Newsday reports that the justices ruled 4-3 that Christina Gerety was treated no differently than non-pregnant Atlantic City Hilton employees who were terminated for not returning to work after their leave expired. In the opinion , Justice Jaynee LaVecchia said, “Hilton’s policy impacts men and women equally and specifically prohibits any exceptions to its maximum limit for medical leave, a prohibition to which Hilton has adhered without exception.”
LaVecchia went on to say that neither Congress nor the State Legislature in its Law Against Discrimination (LAD) require employers to provide pregnant women with up to nine months of leave. LaVecchia pointed out that the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, an amendment to Title VII of the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, requires equal, but not preferential, treatment of pregnant women.
Gerety and her husband were employed by the casino when she became pregnant in 1997. Due to complications of her pregnancy, she requested and was granted extended leave by Hilton. Hilton sent her a letter that her leave was expiring and she would be terminated if she did not return to work on April 2, 1998. After being fired, Gerety filed a complaint of gender discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), according to Newsday.
The EEOC denied the claim and the Geretys filed a lawsuit alleging gender discrimination, unlawful termination, and retaliation against Gerety’s husband by denying him promotions, according to the news report. The lower court ruled in favor of the Gerety’s.
David Garland, attorney for the Hilton, said the leave policy Hilton has is common for many employers in the state. He said in the news report, “If the case had gone the other way, employers throughout the state would have had to rewrite their leave policies.”