Court Rules Old Maternity Leave Doesn't Count Toward Pension

Postby Wizard CaT » Mon May 18, 2009 6:32 pm

Associated Press wrote:WASHINGTON -- Women who took maternity leave before it became illegal to discriminate against pregnant women can't sue to get their leave time to count for their pensions, the Supreme Court ruled Monday.

The high court overturned a lower-court decision that said decades-old maternity leaves should count in determining pensions.

Four AT&T Corp. employees who took maternity leave between 1968 and 1976 sued the company to get their leave time credited toward their pensions. Their pregnancies occurred before the 1979 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which barred companies from treating pregnancy leaves differently from other disability leaves.

AT&T lawyers said their pension plan was legal when the women took pregnancy leave, so they shouldn't have to recalculate their retirement benefits now. Congress didn't make the Pregnancy Discrimination Act retroactive, they said, so the women shouldn't get any extra money.

A majority of the justices agreed.

"A seniority system does not necessarily violate the statute when it gives current effect to such rules that operated before the PDA," wrote Justice David Souter, who will retire next month.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer dissented. By making it illegal to discriminate against women on pregnancy leave, "Congress intended no continuing reduction of women's compensation, pension benefits included, attributable to their placement on pregnancy leave," Justice Ginsburg said.

The decision could affect thousands of women who took pregnancy leaves decades ago and now are headed toward retirement.

The Bush administration had urged the court to reverse the San Francisco-based appeals court, with Justice Department lawyers arguing that a decision favoring the women might harm other employees who could lose expected benefits if the company can't afford to put more money into the pension system.

AT&T lawyers said their leave policy now complies with the 1979 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, but they argued that the law doesn't retroactively apply to old pregnancy leaves. They also said their claims should be invalid because they didn't make it decades ago, when the company first made the decision affecting seniority.

Lawyers for the four women argued that each reduced retirement check that they receive is "a fresh act of discrimination."

The Supreme Court in 2007 didn't accept that argument from Lilly Ledbetter, who sued her company for discrimination after finding out after almost two decades that she made less than her male peers. The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote in May 2007, threw out her complaint, saying she had failed to sue within the 180-day deadline after a discriminatory pay decision was made.

The first bill signed into law by President Barack Obama reversed that decision by saying each new discriminatory paycheck would extend the statute of limitations for an additional 180 days.

The case is AT&T Corp. v. Hulteen, 07-543.

Detainee Lawsuit Can't Go Forward

Separately, a sharply divided court ruled Monday that FBI Director Robert Mueller and former Attorney General John Ashcroft can't face a lawsuit from a former Sept. 11 detainee who argued they were responsible for his restrictive confinement because of his religious beliefs.

The court overturned a lower-court decision that let Javaid Iqbal's lawsuit against the high-ranking officials proceed.

Mr. Iqbal is a Pakistani Muslim who spent nearly six months in solitary confinement in New York in 2002. He had argued that while Messrs. Ashcroft and Mueller didn't single him out for mistreatment, they were responsible for a policy of confining detainees in highly restrictive conditions because of their religious beliefs or race.

But the government argued that there was nothing linking Messrs. Mueller and Ashcroft to the abuses that happened to Mr. Iqbal at a Brooklyn, N.Y., prison's Administrative Maximum Special Housing Unit, and the court agreed.

"The complaint does not show or even intimate, that petitioners purposefully housed detainees in the ADMAX SHU due to their race, religion or national origin," said Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion. "All it plausibly suggests is that the nation's top law enforcement officers, in the aftermath of a devastating attack, sought to keep suspected terrorists in the most secure conditions available until the suspects could be cleared of terrorist activity."

The New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had said the lawsuit could proceed.

The court's liberal justices -- David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and John Paul Stevens -- dissented from the court's opinion.

"There is no principled basis for the majority's disregard of the allegations linking Ashcroft and Mueller to their subordinates' discrimination," Justice Souter wrote.

The Supreme Court sent the case back to the lower courts. Mr. Iqbal could have a case against others, Justice Kennedy said.

His "account of his prison ordeal could, if proved, demonstrate unconstitutional misconduct by some governmental actors," Justice Kennedy said. "But the allegations and pleadings with respect to these actors are not before us here."

Mr. Iqbal was arrested at his Long Island home on Nov. 2, 2001, and charged with nonviolent federal crimes unrelated to terrorism. Two months later, he was moved to a holding facility in Brooklyn, where he was in solitary confinement for more than 150 days without a hearing, his lawsuit alleges.

He said he was subjected to physical and verbal abuse, including unnecessary strip searches. On the day he entered solitary confinement, he says, he was thrown against a wall, kicked in the stomach, punched in the face and dragged across a floor by federal prison officers.

He was cleared of any involvement in terrorism and was deported in January 2003 after pleading guilty to fraud and being sentenced to a year and four months in prison.
In Other Court Action Monday

* The justices agreed to consider overturning the fraud conviction of media executive Conrad Black, who is serving a 6 ½-year prison term. They will hear arguments later this year over the convictions of Mr. Black, the former chairman and chief executive of the Hollinger International media company, and two other former executives in connection with payments of $5.5 million they received from a Hollinger subsidiary.
* The court refused to delay the coming trial of former Louisiana Rep. William Jefferson on bribery and other charges. The high court refused to hear an appeal by Mr. Jefferson to throw out the indictment against him. The former Democratic congressman has argued that prosecutors trampled on his constitutional privileges as a lawmaker. Mr. Jefferson was indicted in 2007 on multiple counts, including soliciting bribes and racketeering. Investigators raided Mr. Jefferson's home and found $90,000 in cash stuffed in a freezer.
* The court won't hear another challenge to California's decade-old law permitting marijuana use for medical purposes. The justices refused to hear appeals from San Diego and San Bernardino counties, which say the justices have never directly ruled on whether California's law trumps the federal controlled-substances laws.
* The justices won't block a lawsuit against a railroad involved in a deadly derailment in North Dakota. They declined Monday to get involved in a dispute between the Canadian Pacific Railway and residents of Minot, N.D. The Minot residents want to sue the railroad over a 2002 derailment that sent a cloud of toxic anhydrous ammonia farm fertilizer over the city.
* The court said it will consider throwing out the death sentence for a mentally impaired Alabama man who killed his former lover. Holly Wood was convicted in the shooting death of his former girlfriend, Ruby Lois Gosha, in 1993. She was killed by a shotgun blast to her head as she slept in her home in Troy, Ala.
* The court turned away a plea from Holocaust survivors who contend that German companies withheld $100 million from a fund for victims of Nazi-era forced labor. The justices declined to revive a lawsuit survivors filed against 17 companies, including BMW, Volkswagen and Deutsche Bank, that paid $2.5 billion into a reparation fund for U.S. claims.
* The justices rejected an appeal by a son of author John Steinbeck over the publishing rights to "The Grapes of Wrath" and other early works. The court said it won't disturb a ruling by the federal appeals court in New York that the rights belong to Penguin Group Inc., and the heirs of John Steinbeck's widow, Elaine. Author John Steinbeck died in 1968; his wife in 2003. The heirs include her sister, four children and grandchildren.

Copyright © 2009 Associated Press
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Re: Court Rules Old Maternity Leave Doesn't Count Toward Pension

Postby Coda » Mon May 18, 2009 8:37 pm

As much as I feel sorry for the affected women, the Supreme Court made the right decision according to the laws of the country. The doctrine of "ex post facto" is a very important thing -- you can't punish someone for doing something before it was made illegal, even if that "someone" happens to be a company instead of a private individual. It's unfortunate, but if the Court had ruled otherwise it would have set a rather troubling legal precedent.
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Re: Court Rules Old Maternity Leave Doesn't Count Toward Pension

Postby Jennifer Diane Reitz » Tue May 19, 2009 1:44 am

Coda wrote:As much as I feel sorry for the affected women, the Supreme Court made the right decision according to the laws of the country. The doctrine of "ex post facto" is a very important thing -- you can't punish someone for doing something before it was made illegal, even if that "someone" happens to be a company instead of a private individual. It's unfortunate, but if the Court had ruled otherwise it would have set a rather troubling legal precedent.


Yes. Of course. It would have opened the door to restitution for all manner of past grievances, such as the genocide of native peoples, restitution for slavery before it was outlawed, corporate slaughter of tens of thousands working men during the formation of the first workers unions, and of course the whole issue of corporate responsibility for criminal negligence (from poisoned food and medicine products to dangerously shoddy manufacturing) prior to the laws enacted after various horrors demanded their necessity. This would be very expensive for those who help to vastly supplement the meager salaries of our congressmen and judges across the nation, as well as for the government as a whole.

We can tolerate fucking people over; but it is a true violation of ethics to compromise profits over something as pointless as the comfort and survival of senior citizens. Especially women.

You give women the vote, and then they think discrimination should be considered an actual wrong, a timeless limitation-free deeply wrongful violation of basic human rights, rather than just a matter of current law. Laws can be changed, women, so shut up and eat dog food, you bitches.
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Re: Court Rules Old Maternity Leave Doesn't Count Toward Pension

Postby Monocheres » Tue May 19, 2009 7:51 am

Jennifer, the prohibition against ex-post-facto laws is explicitly called out in the U.S. Constitution. It's not even an Amendment, it's right in the original body of the document. The Founders were very particular about that, because there was a long history in Europe (and even some incidents in the Colonies) of tyrants and demagogues using ex-post-facto laws as a key instrument of oppression. Think about it: Once you grab the reins of power (by conquest, election, ordination whatever), all you need to do to destroy the opposition and cement your power is [pass a law/issue a decree/preach an encyclical/whatever] that says "Anyone who was ever against [the King/Queen/Emperor/Theocracy/Third Estate/Proletariat/XYZ Party/whatever] is now a traitor subject to [beheading/hanging/stoning/life imprisonment at the Chateau D'If/deportation to Siberia/whatever]." Then the witch-hunt begins. The history of Europe since the writing of the Constitution. has proven the Founders' wisdom even more, particularly given all the atrocities that occurred during and after the French and Russian Revolutions.

In this country, we have the right to know what laws govern us. Now. Today. We don't need to fear that somebody is going to pass a law in the future that will make what we do today -- or worse, who we are, today -- a crime. However passionate you are about your causes, do you really want to give up that right?
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Re: Court Rules Old Maternity Leave Doesn't Count Toward Pension

Postby draque » Tue May 19, 2009 9:27 am

Thirded. It's our responsibility to fix unfair rules as quickly as we can, but if we're going to make the pretense of playing by the rules, ourselves, we have to be willing to accept the consequences when we didn't think them out carefully enough the first time (both as individuals and as a society). Like Monocheres pointed out in the last post, if rules can be changed after the fact to punish one set of people, they can be changed after the fact to punish anyone. That women were denied benefits that they deserve is unjust, but I would place the blame for this primarily on the insufficient protection laws that allowed it to take place, and say that unfortunately, punishing the company responsible would open the doors to abuses of the system with consequences worse than what has already happened.
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Re: Court Rules Old Maternity Leave Doesn't Count Toward Pension

Postby Alfador » Tue May 19, 2009 10:02 am

I'm sorry Jennifer, but I'm going to have to side with Monocheres and draque, here. Ex-post-facto protection is a CORE part of what our country stands for, part of the protections that have helped us as citizens weather the changes wrought by the various administrations over the last several decades. Without it... imagine the PATRIOT Act, imagine communist/terrorist witch-hunts... but TEN TIMES WORSE.

Yes, it's horrible when companies can't be called out on their abuse because it wasn't illegal at the time they did it. But the law against it provides a definitive stopping point, at the very least.
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Re: Court Rules Old Maternity Leave Doesn't Count Toward Pension

Postby Coda » Tue May 19, 2009 9:52 pm

This is a grand case of where doing the right thing would ultimately be the wrong thing. It's a gigantic paradox with no agreeable solution. It's easy to say "screw the companies, help the individuals," and you'd surely get thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of people to agree with you.

Unfortunately, that stance really boils down to the mindset of "do what feels good." It's altruistic hedonism. You'll make a few people happy for a few years, until more people start clamoring for similar treatment for other perceived wrongs. It's simply short-sighted. There has to be some level of control, some limits, some structure and framework to avoid having it snowball. Worse, humanity is cursed with selfishness and deceit; there are those who would claim to be likewise privileged to this special treatment without deserving it. The costs of dealing with abuse and fraud have to be taken into account, as well as the feasibility of being able to actually investigate the claims -- this ties into the idea of a statute of limitations; there comes a time when keeping around information about long-gone employees and being able to keep it organized and being able to reasonably search through it becomes prohibitive. Where does the cost of helping out a few people start affecting the lives of more people than it helps? The answer isn't simple -- in fact, it may not even be possible to determine the answer; the best we can do is try to make the rules clear and simple.

Always remember that the United States of America is NOT a democracy. We are a republic. Even the ancient Greeks knew that unbridled democracy was subject to the fickle and passionate nature of human opinion. Sometimes, in order to do the right thing for the most people, a government must do what is unpopular. We elect representatives not just for efficiency -- we elect them to make informed, rational decisions for the general good of the represented (who are often neither informed nor rational), not as a rubber stamp of the loudest voice.
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Re: Court Rules Old Maternity Leave Doesn't Count Toward Pension

Postby Jennifer Diane Reitz » Wed May 20, 2009 4:48 am

I see your points. They are well made.

Therefore, I concede.

But damn, it's still sad for elderly mothers to go hungry because of past corporate greed. It's just sad.

I wish our civilization always took care of vulnerable people.

It makes me cross to see anyone suffer.
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Re: Court Rules Old Maternity Leave Doesn't Count Toward Pension

Postby strange_person » Wed May 20, 2009 10:15 am

I think the appropriate remedy, in this case, is not to attempt to undo the corporate greed specifically, but rather, to establish a system that takes care of even those people who don't particularly need it.

You know that old Roman idea, bread and circuses? Sure, it was a cynical manipulation of the public, but bread is bread. It kept people alive who would have starved otherwise. No attempt was made to give preferential treatment to those who could prove that they needed it more, or stop double-dipping; the would-be senator just handed out food to anyone who asked.

Maybe campaign managers should lay off on the mailing lists and TV ads, and just run something like this.


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Re: Court Rules Old Maternity Leave Doesn't Count Toward Pension

Postby Shackler » Wed May 20, 2009 9:32 pm

Jennifer Diane Reitz wrote:I wish our civilization always took care of vulnerable people.


You've not that long to wait, the way I see it.
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Re: Court Rules Old Maternity Leave Doesn't Count Toward Pension

Postby draque » Thu May 21, 2009 12:08 pm

Shackler wrote:
Jennifer Diane Reitz wrote:I wish our civilization always took care of vulnerable people.


You've not that long to wait, the way I see it.


Maybe I'm just being jaded here, but do you really think? Although there's going to be a revamped health care system here in the US, which will hopefully work better than what we have now (although which I suspect will be something closer to the mess they have in Canada in terms of social health care), but it really seems to me that the issue comes more from people being willing to take advantage of each other in any instance the rules allow them to. I'm not justifying anything here, obviously, but the original topic is a perfect example of how people will find ways to abuse systems that were created originally to protect.
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Re: Court Rules Old Maternity Leave Doesn't Count Toward Pension

Postby Shackler » Thu May 21, 2009 8:44 pm

I was more referring to my general belief that things are getting better. I don't think that society's problems will necessarily remain that way for long.
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Re: Court Rules Old Maternity Leave Doesn't Count Toward Pension

Postby RaharuAharu » Thu May 21, 2009 9:27 pm

strange_person wrote:
Maybe campaign managers should lay off on the mailing lists and TV ads, and just run something like this.


*sniffle*

Reminds me of home.
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Re: Court Rules Old Maternity Leave Doesn't Count Toward Pension

Postby Plasman » Fri May 22, 2009 3:49 am

I wish we had a restaurant like that here.
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