Pregnancy Discrimination Act not to be Applied for Service Retroactively

March 10, 2006 ( - The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals has determined that women who took pregnancy leave prior to the effective date of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) amendment to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) cannot receive service credit for their maternity leave time.

In its decision, the appellate court relied on a previous court opinion which stated, “…in the absence of a clear expression of intent by Congress that a particular legislative enactment is to apply to events that occurred before the effective date of the legislation, the default rule is no retroactive application.”   The 9 th Circuit noted, “It is widely understood that there is nothing in the PDA that suggests a congressional intent to make the statute retroactive.”

The appellate court agreed that the plaintiffs’ benefits were less generous than their peers’, who may have taken maternity leave post-PDA.   However, it again cited the previous opinion which stated, “It will frequently be true, as petitioner and amici forcefully argue here, that retroactive application of a new statute would vindicate its purpose more fully. That consideration, however, is not sufficient to rebut the presumption against retroactivity.”

Finally, the 9 th Circuit panel pointed out that the statute of limitations requires that the cause of action for the plaintiffs must have occurred either at the time the service was not credited (pre-PDA) or at the time the PDA was enacted, which was in 1979.   Therefore the court determined this claim was time-barred.

Four current and former female employees of AT&T Corporation, along with the Communications Workers of America (CWA) brought the suit against the company.   The women had all taken a maternity leave sometime between 1968 and 1976.   Prior to PDA, AT&T only credited up to 30 days of service for women on maternity leave and other disability leave that occurred while on maternity leave.   Others who took disability leave were credited for service for the full amount of time they were on leave.   The plaintiffs said that the company’s failure to give the women credit for their full pre-PDA leave time affects their eligibility for and computation of retirement benefits and violates the PDA.   A lower court agreed.

The appellate court reversed the trial court decision and dismissed the case on the grounds of failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted.

The opinion in Hulteen v. AT&T Corporation is  here .