Cleveland Board of Education v. Fleur Cohen v. Chesterfield County School Board 8212 777 72 8212 1129, Nos. 72

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtSTEWART
PartiesCLEVELAND BOARD OF EDUCATION et al., Petitioners, v. Jo Carol LaFLEUR et al. Susan COHEN, Petitioner, v. CHESTERFIELD COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD et al. —777 and 72—1129
Decision Date21 January 1974
Docket NumberNos. 72

414 U.S. 632
94 S.Ct. 791
39 L.Ed.2d 52
CLEVELAND BOARD OF EDUCATION et al., Petitioners,

v.

Jo Carol LaFLEUR et al. Susan COHEN, Petitioner, v. CHESTERFIELD COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD et al.

Nos. 72—777 and 72—1129.
Argued Oct. 15, 1973.
Decided Jan. 21, 1974.

Syllabus

Pregnant public school teachers brought these actions under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 challenging the constitutionality of mandatory maternity leave rules of the Cleveland, Ohio (No. 72—777), and Chesterfield County, Virginia (No 72—1129), School Boards. The Cleveland rule requires a pregnant school teacher to take unpaid maternity leave five months before the expected childbirth, with leave application to be made at least two weeks before her departure. Eligibility to return to work is not accorded until the next regular semester after her child is three months old. The Chesterfield County rule requires the teacher to leave work at least four months, and to give notice at least six months, before the anticipated childbirth. Re-employment is guaranteed no later than the first day of the school year after the date she is declared re-eligible. Both schemes require a physician's certificate of physical fitness prior to the teacher's return. Each Court of Appeals reversed the court below, one holding the Chesterfield County maternity leave rule constitutional, the other holding the Cleveland rule unconstitutional. Held:

1. The mandatory termination provisions of both maternity rules violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 639—648.

(a) The arbitrary cutoff dates (which obviously come at different times of the school year for different teachers) have no valid relationship to the State's interest in preserving continuity of instruction, as long as the teacher is required to give substantial advance notice that she is pregnant. Pp. 639—648.

(b) The challenged provisions are violative of due process since they create a conclusive presumption that every teacher who is four or five months pregnant is physically incapable of

Page 633

continuing her duties, whereas any such teacher's ability to continue past a fixed pregnancy period is an individual matter; and the school boards' administrative convenience alone cannot suffice to validate the arbitrary rules. Pp. 643—648.

2. The Cleveland three-month return provision also violates due process, being both arbitrary and irrational. It creates an irrebuttable presumption that the mother (whose good health must be medically certified) is not fit to resume work, and it is not germane to maintaining continuity of instruction, as the precise point a child will reach the relevant age will occur at a different time throughout the school year for each teacher. Pp. 648—650.

3. The Chesterfield County return rule, which is free of any unnecessary presumption, comports with due process requirements. P. 650.

No. 72—777, 6 Cir., 465 F.2d 1184, affirmed; No. 72—1129, 4 Cir., 474 F.2d 395, reversed and remanded.

Charles F. Clarke, Cleveland, Ohio, for petitioners in 72 777.

Jane M. Picker, Cleveland, Ohio, for respondents.

Philip J. Hirschkop, Alexandria, Va., for petitioner in 72 1129.

Samuel W. Hixon, III, Richmond, Va., for respondents.

Page 634

Mr. Justice STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

The respondents in No. 72—777 and the petitioner in No. 72 1129 are female public school teachers. During the 1970—1971 school year, each informed her local school board that she was pregnant; each was compelled by a mandatory maternity leave rule to quit her job without pay several months before the expected birth of her child. These cases call upon us to decide the constitutionality of the school boards' rules.

I

Jo Carol LaFleur and Ann Elizabeth Nelson, the respondents in No. 72—777, are junior high school teachers employed by the Board of Education of Cleveland, Ohio. Pursuant to a rule first adopted in 1952, the school board requires every pregnant school teacher to take maternity leave without pay, beginning five months before the expected birth of her child. Application for such leave must be made no later than two weeks prior to the date of departure. A teacher on maternity leave is not allowed

Page 635

to return to work until the beginning of the next regular school semester which follows the date when her child attains the age of three months. A doctor's certificate attesting to the health of the teacher is a prerequisite to return; an additional physical examination may be required. The teacher or maternity leave is not promised re-employment after the birth of the child; she is merely given priority in reassignment to a position for which she is qualified. Failure to comply with the mandatory maternity leave provisions is ground for dismissal.1

Page 636

Neither Mrs. LaFleur nor Mrs. Nelson wished to take an unpaid maternity leave; each wanted to continue teaching until the end of the school year.2 Because of the mandatory maternity leave rule, however, each was required to leave her job in March 1971.3 The two women then filed separate suits in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, challenging the constitutionality of the maternity leave rule. The District Court tried the cases together, and rejected the plaintiffs' arguments. 326 F.Supp. 1208. A divided panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed, finding the Cleveland rule in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.4 465 F.2d 1184.

The petitioner in No. 72—1129, Susan Cohen, was employed by the School Board of Chesterfield County, Virginia. That school board's maternity leave regulation requires that a pregnant teacher leave work at least four months prior to the expected birth of her child. Notice

Page 637

in writing must be given to the school board at least six months prior to the expected birth date. A teacher on maternity leave is declared re-eligible for employment when she submits written notice from a physician that she is physically fit for re-employment, and when she can give assurance that care of the child will cause only minimal interference with her job responsibilities. The teacher is guaranteed re-employment no later than the first day of the school year following the date upon which she is declared re-eligible.5

Page 638

Mrs. Cohen informed the Chesterfield County School Board in November 1970, that she was pregnant and expected the birth of her child about April 28, 1971. 6 She initially requested that she be permitted to continue teaching until April 1, 1971.7 The school board rejected the request, as it did Mrs. Cohen's subsequent suggestion that she be allowed to teach until January 21, 1971, the end of the first school semester. Instead, she was required to leave her teaching job on December 18, 1970. She subsequently filed this suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The District Court held that the school board regulation violates the Equal Protection Clause, and granted appropriate relief. 326 F.Supp. 1159. A divided panel of the Fourth Circuit affirmed, but, on rehearing en banc, the Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of the challenged regulation in a 4—3 decision. 474 F.2d 395.

We granted certiorari in both cases, 411 U.S. 947, 93 S.Ct. 1921, 36 L.Ed.2d 408, in order to resolve the conflict between the Courts of Appeals regarding the constitutionality of such mandatory maternity leave rules for public school teachers.8

Page 639

II

This Court has long recognized that freedom of personal choice in matters of marriage and family life is one of the liberties protected by the Due Process Clause

Page 640

of the Fourteenth Amendment. Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 93 S.Ct. 705, 35 L.Ed.2d 147; Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, 12, 87 S.Ct. 1817, 1823, 18 L.Ed.2d 1010; Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 85 S.Ct. 1678, 14 L.Ed.2d 510; Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 45 S.Ct. 571, 69 L.Ed. 1070; Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 43 S.Ct. 625, 67 L.Ed. 1042. See also Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158, 64 S.Ct. 438, 88 L.Ed. 645; Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U.S. 535, 62 S.Ct. 1110, 86 L.Ed. 1655. As we noted in Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438, 453, 92 S.Ct. 1029, 1038, 31 L.Ed.2d 349, there is a right 'to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child.'

By acting to penalize the pregnant teacher for deciding to bear a child, overly restrictive maternity leave regulations can constitute a heavy burden on the exercise of these protected freedoms. Because public school maternity leave rules directly affect 'one of the basic civil rights of man,' Skinner v. Oklahoma, supra, 316 U.S., at 541, 62 S.Ct., at 1113, the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires that such rules must not needlessly, arbitrarily, or capriciously impinge upon this vital area of a teacher's constitutional liberty. The question before us in these cases is whether the interests advanced in support of the rules of the Cleveland and Chesterfield County School Boards can justify the particular procedures they have adopted.

The school boards in these cases have offered two essentially overlapping explanations for their mandatory maternity leave rules. First, they contend that the firm cutoff dates are necessary to maintain continuity of classroom instruction, since advance knowledge of when

Page 641

a pregnant teacher must leave facilitates the finding and hiring of a qualified substitute. Secondly, the school boards seek to justify their maternity rules by arguing that at least some teachers become physically incapable of adequately performing certain of their duties during the latter part of pregnancy. By keeping the pregnant teacher out of the classroom during these final months, the...

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760 practice notes
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    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
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    ...of E. Cleveland, 431 U.S. 494, 499, 503, 97 S.Ct. 1932, 1935, 1937, 52 L.Ed.2d 531 (1977) (plurality); Cleveland Bd. of Educ. v. LaFleur, 414 U.S. 632, 639-40, 94 S.Ct. 791, 796, 39 L.Ed.2d 52 (1974); Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, 12, 87 S.Ct. 1817, 1823, 18 L.Ed.2d 1010 (1967); Pierce v.......
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    ...has recognized the right to family integrity and autonomy in a number of contexts. See, e. g., Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur, 414 U.S. 632, 94 S.Ct. 791, 39 L.Ed.2d 52 (1974); Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 92 S.Ct. 1526, 32 L.Ed.2d 15 (1972); Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645,......
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    ...principles. Furthermore, the irrebuttable presumption reasoning of the Page 662 Supreme Court in Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur, 414 U.S. 632, 94 S.Ct. 791, 39 L.Ed.2d 52 (1974), Vlandis v. Kline, 412 U.S. 441, 93 S.Ct. 2230, 37 L.Ed.2d 63 (1973), and other cases has frequently bee......
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    ...the constitutional rights of pregnant employees by reason of [the Supreme Court's] decision in Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur , [414 U.S. 632, 651, 94 S.Ct. 791, 39 L.Ed.2d 52 (1974) ]." Tuttle , 471 U.S. at 822, 105 S.Ct. 2427 ("Proof of a single incident of unconstitutional activ......
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754 cases
  • Lipscomb By and Through DeFehr v. Simmons, No. 87-4079
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • 27 d1 Abril d1 1992
    ...of E. Cleveland, 431 U.S. 494, 499, 503, 97 S.Ct. 1932, 1935, 1937, 52 L.Ed.2d 531 (1977) (plurality); Cleveland Bd. of Educ. v. LaFleur, 414 U.S. 632, 639-40, 94 S.Ct. 791, 796, 39 L.Ed.2d 52 (1974); Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, 12, 87 S.Ct. 1817, 1823, 18 L.Ed.2d 1010 (1967); Pierce v.......
  • Davis v. Page, No. 78-2063
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • 23 d1 Março d1 1981
    ...has recognized the right to family integrity and autonomy in a number of contexts. See, e. g., Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur, 414 U.S. 632, 94 S.Ct. 791, 39 L.Ed.2d 52 (1974); Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 92 S.Ct. 1526, 32 L.Ed.2d 15 (1972); Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645,......
  • Yellow Springs Exempted Village School Dist. Bd. of Ed. v. Ohio High School Athletic Ass'n, Nos. 78-3131
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • 28 d2 Abril d2 1981
    ...principles. Furthermore, the irrebuttable presumption reasoning of the Page 662 Supreme Court in Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur, 414 U.S. 632, 94 S.Ct. 791, 39 L.Ed.2d 52 (1974), Vlandis v. Kline, 412 U.S. 441, 93 S.Ct. 2230, 37 L.Ed.2d 63 (1973), and other cases has frequently bee......
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    • 15 d2 Agosto d2 2017
    ...the constitutional rights of pregnant employees by reason of [the Supreme Court's] decision in Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur , [414 U.S. 632, 651, 94 S.Ct. 791, 39 L.Ed.2d 52 (1974) ]." Tuttle , 471 U.S. at 822, 105 S.Ct. 2427 ("Proof of a single incident of unconstitutional activ......
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7 books & journal articles
  • List of Cases Referenced
    • United States
    • Political Research Quarterly Nbr. 28-1, March 1975
    • 1 d6 Março d6 1975
    ...523 (1967) Cardwell v. Lewis, 94 S.Ct. 2464 (1974)Chaplinski v. New Hampshire, 316 U.S. 568 (1942)Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur, 414 U.S. 632 (1974)Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971) Cole v. Richardson, 405 U.S. 676 (1972)Colorado Air Pollution Variance Board v. Western Alfal......
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    • Political Research Quarterly Nbr. 44-4, December 1991
    • 1 d0 Dezembro d0 1991
    ...of Richmond v. Croson. 1989. 109 S. Ct. 706. The Civil Rights Cases 1883. 109 U.S. 3. Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur. 1974. 414 U. S. 632.Corning Glass v. Brennan. 1974. 417 U. S. 188.Craig v. Boren. 1976. 429 U.S. 190. Dennis v. United States. 1951. 341 U. S. 494. Dothard v. Rawli......
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    • United States
    • Yale Law Journal Vol. 131 Nbr. 6, April 2022
    • 1 d5 Abril d5 2022
    ...72 STAN. L. REV. 261, 306-08 (2020) (discussing Moore). (212.) Moore, 431 U.S. at 499 (quoting Cleveland Bd. of Educ. v. LaFleur, 414 U.S. 632, 639-40 (213.) For a discussion of how unauthorized migrants have been stereotyped by lawmakers as transient, single, male workers, see Eisha Jain, ......
  • The Supreme Court and Sex Discrimination: the Role of the Solicitor General
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    • Political Research Quarterly Nbr. 41-3, September 1988
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    ...405 U.S. 645. Frontiero v. Richardson, 411 U.S. 677.Pittsburgh Press v. Human Relations Commission, 413 U.S. 376. Cleveland v. Lafleur, 414 U.S. 632. Kahn v. Shevin, 416 U.S. 351.Corning Glass v. Brennan, 417 U.S. 188. Geduldig v. Aiello, 417 U.S. 484.Schlesinger v. Ballard, 419 U.S. 498. T......
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