CLEVELAND - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced the settlement of a class lawsuit alleging pregnancy discrimination against Cincinnati Bell Telephone and Cincinnati Bell Information Systems. The suit charged the companies with discriminating against pregnant employees under 1995 early retirement plans by denying them proper service credits for time spent on maternity leave -- a violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which was passed in 1978 and became effective in 1979.
It has been the Commission's long held position that employers must treat pregnancy in the same manner as they treat other temporary disabilities for purposes of accruing seniority while on medical leave. "Employers must understand that newly announced retirement plans that fail to give service credit to women for pre-1979 maternity leaves may, under appropriate circumstances, constitute a new act of sex discrimination," said EEOC Chairwoman Ida L. Castro. "We are pleased that Cincinnati Bell has worked cooperatively with us to resolve this suit."
EEOC's suit was filed in 1998 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Western Division, in Cincinnati. Under terms of the agreement, approximately 458 female class members will receive service credit adjustments generally in the range of 60 to 90 days per pregnancy, depending upon the amount of time that was actually deducted from an individual's service credit at the time of reinstatement following a maternity leave. The class consists of all women covered by one of Cincinnati Bell's pension plans who were employed as of January 1, 1995, and had been denied service credit for pre-1979 maternity leaves.
In addition, a subclass of approximately 40 individuals will receive monetary relief estimated to exceed $1 million. The payments will range from $1,000 to $180,000, depending on how much the service credit adjustment affects the individual's eligibility to receive various enhanced retirement benefits that were part of the early retirement offers made in 1995. For example, a retiree whose pension status is only slightly changed will be eligible to receive monetary relief in the lower range. A current employee who can now retire under the terms of one of the 1995 plans will receive a payment in the higher range.
The settlement package is subject to final court approval and, therefore, a precise total dollar figure will not be known until after the completion of a multi-step implementation process. Once the agreement is approved, all class members will be notified and a fairness hearing will be held. The final settlement agreement will be carried out through a process monitored by the Commission.
"This case is an example of the Commission's efforts to strategically concentrate its limited resources on resolving systemic discrimination issues through class-based litigation," said EEOC General Counsel C. Gregory Stewart. "EEOC is investigating and litigating issues involving sex discrimination on a number of fronts and intends to ensure that women who take pregnancy leave are accorded their rights under the law."
In a joint statement, EEOC's Cleveland District Director Michael C. Fetzer and C. Larry Watson, Regional Attorney of EEOC's Cleveland District Office, who was responsible for prosecuting the case, said: "This is a significant settlement that will benefit hundreds of current and former female workers at Cincinnati Bell. This case sends a clear message to employers in Ohio and across the country that they are not free to discriminate against employees who take maternity leave."
Under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employment discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions constitutes unlawful sex discrimination. In addition to prohibiting sex-based discrimination, Title VII prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, or national origin. EEOC also enforces the Age Discrimination in Employment Act; the Equal Pay Act; Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits employment discrimination against people with disabilities in the private sector and state and local governments; prohibitions against discrimination affecting individuals with disabilities in the federal government; and sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1991. Further information about the Commission is available on the agency's web site at www.eeoc.gov.
This page was last modified on June 15, 2000.
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