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Geduldig v. Aiello

A 1974 Supreme Court Ruling About Pregnancy Disability Benefits


Geduldig v. Aiello

Geduldig v. Aiello was a 1974 U.S. Supreme Court case dealing with pregnancy disability benefits. In Geduldig v. Aiello, the Supreme Court ruled that California employers did not have to provide disability insurance benefits for temporary work loss resulting from a pregnancy without complications.

Exceptions to California Disability Benefits Coverage

The California disability insurance system at issue in Geduldig v. Aiello was for temporary unemployment periods due to disabilities not covered by workers' compensation benefits. Employees were eligible after paying into the fund for a certain period of employment. Some disabilities were not covered by the plan, including drug addiction and, notably, pregnancy.

The Geduldig v. Aiello case involved four women who had been denied benefits. However, three of the women were denied benefits for complications resulting from pregnancy. By the time Geduldig v. Aiello reached the Supreme Court, another case had decided that the disability insurance did have to pay benefits for pregnancy complications. The only remaining question was whether normal pregnancies had to be covered.

The Ruling: Not Sex Discrimination

The ruling in Geduldig v. Aiello was that California's unemployment insurance law did not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. California had a rational basis for excluding some disabilities from being covered: the purpose was to keep the fund solvent, affordable and functional.

It was argued that the Court should have applied a higher scrutiny to the law because it made a sex-based distinction in excluding pregnancy. However, the Geduldig v. Aiello decision said that the law did not discriminate based on sex because there was no risk from which women were protected but men were not, or from which men were protected but women were not. Instead, according to the decision, not every legislative classification involving pregnancy was a sex-based classification. The Geduldig v. Aiello case was decided on June 17, 1974.

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