Cohen v. Chesterfield County School Board, Civ. A. No. 678-70-R.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
Writing for the CourtJohn B. Mann, Richmond, Va., Philip J. Hirschkop, Alexandria, Va., for plaintiff
PartiesMrs. Susan COHEN v. CHESTERFIELD COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD and Dr. Robert F. Kelly.
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 678-70-R.
Decision Date17 May 1971

326 F. Supp. 1159

Mrs. Susan COHEN
v.
CHESTERFIELD COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD
and
Dr. Robert F. Kelly.

Civ. A. No. 678-70-R.

United States District Court, E. D. Virginia, Richmond Division.

May 17, 1971.


John B. Mann, Richmond, Va., Philip J. Hirschkop, Alexandria, Va., for plaintiff.

Morris E. Mason, Asst. Commonwealth's Atty., Oliver D. Rudy, Commonwealth's Atty., Chesterfield, Va., for defendant.

MEMORANDUM

MERHIGE, District Judge.

Mrs. Susan Cohen, the plaintiff in the above styled action, complains that a regulation of the Chesterfield County School Board (School Board) which requires her to take a leave of absence from her duties as a teacher in Midlothian High School at the end of her fifth month of pregnancy violates her constitutional rights in that it discriminates against her as a woman, thereby violating the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.1 Dr. Robert F. Kelly is Superintendent of the Chesterfield County schools. Jurisdiction is invoked under 28 U.S.C. § 1343 (3), the contention being that defendants' actions violate 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

Mrs. Cohen was first employed as a school teacher by defendant School Board for the 1968-69 school year under and pursuant to the terms and conditions of an employment contract as required by law. She was re-employed by the School Board for the 1969-70 school year and again in 1970-71, under similar, but not identical contracts.2

On or about November 2, 1970, Mrs. Cohen informed the School Board in writing that she was pregnant.3 She stated that the estimated due date was April 28, 1971, and, with the consent of her obstetrician, asked that maternity leave be made effective as to her on April 1, 1971, which would be the end of her eighth month of pregnancy. Leave was granted effective December 18, 1970, pursuant to the terms and conditions

326 F. Supp. 1160
of the maternity leave policy,4 and her request that April 1, 1971, be the effective date was denied

Mrs. Cohen requested permission to present her case before the School Board, which she did on November 25, 1970.5 The Board denied her request for an extension.6 The basis was that even though she was, and is, considered to be an excellent teacher, the School Board had a replacement available, and felt it proper to abide by its regulation.

The unrefuted medical evidence is that there is no medical reason for the Board's regulation. As a matter of fact, pregnant women are more likely to be incapacitated in the early stages of pregnancy than the last four months.7 Further, there is no psychological reason for a pregnant teacher to be forced to take a mandatory leave of absence. In short, since no two pregnancies are alike, decisions of when a pregnant teacher should discontinue working are matters best left up to the woman and her doctor.

In addition, no tenable administrative reason has been advanced by the defendants in defense of the provision. The reasons given by Dr. Kelly and the members of the School Board for the policy, such as fear of pushing with resulting injury to the fetus, and inability to carry out responsibilities in fire drills, are nugatory, and based on no empirical data whatsoever. Neither has there been a substantial study conducted upon which to base the contention that absences will increase during the latter stages of pregnancy. Basically, the four month requirement set forth in the provision was arbitrarily selected.

Mrs. Cohen seeks by way of relief to be placed in the same status she would have been in had she been allowed to teach until April 1. That includes wages from January, 1971, through March, 1971, and all other rights and benefits accorded teachers in the Chesterfield school system, including, but not limited to, seniority.

In 1905, the Supreme Court held that a New York law fixing maximum hours that an employee could work was violative of the Constitution in that it interfered with the right to contract. Lochner v. New York, 198 U.S. 45, 25 S.Ct. 539, 49 L.Ed. 937 (1905). However, less than three years later, in Muller v. Oregon, 208 U.S. 412, 28 S.Ct. 324, 52 L.Ed. 551 (1908), the Supreme Court restricted the meaning of Lochner to men, Id. at 418-419, 28 S.Ct. 324, and held that a law restricting working hours for women was reasonable due to the difference between the sexes. See also, Bosley v. McLaughlin, 236...

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27 practice notes
  • Monell v. Department of Social Services of City of New York, No. 407
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • March 8, 1976
    ...pregnancy leave rules to be unconstitutional, the District Judge whose decision was ultimately affirmed had actually awarded back pay. 326 F.Supp. 1159, 1161 (E.D.Va.1971). They rely on the statement of Mr. Justice Stewart that "(t)he District Court held that the school board regulation vio......
  • Cleveland Board of Education v. Fleur Cohen v. Chesterfield County School Board 8212 777 72 8212 1129, Nos. 72
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • January 21, 1974
    ...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 chal......
  • Monell v. Department of Social Services of City of New York, No. 75-1914
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 6, 1978
    ...of precedents. At least two of the school board cases involved claims for monetary relief. Cohen v. Chesterfield County School Board, 326 F.Supp. 1159, 1161 (ED Va.1971), rev'd, 474 F.2d 395 (CA4 1973), rev'd and remanded, 414 U.S. 632, 94 S.Ct. 791, 39 L.Ed.2d 52 (1974); Tinker v. Des Moin......
  • Savage v. Kibbee, No. 75 Civ. 4358 (HFW).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • November 11, 1976
    ...414 U.S. 632, 94 S.Ct. 791, 39 L.Ed.2d 52 (1974) rev'g 474 F.2d 395 (4th Cir. 1973), rev'g Cohen v. Chesterfield County School Board, 326 F.Supp. 1159 (E.D.Va.1971). In this district, back pay has been awarded after Kenosha for the dismissal of a New York City employee without due process. ......
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27 cases
  • Monell v. Department of Social Services of City of New York, No. 407
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • March 8, 1976
    ...pregnancy leave rules to be unconstitutional, the District Judge whose decision was ultimately affirmed had actually awarded back pay. 326 F.Supp. 1159, 1161 (E.D.Va.1971). They rely on the statement of Mr. Justice Stewart that "(t)he District Court held that the school board regulation vio......
  • Cleveland Board of Education v. Fleur Cohen v. Chesterfield County School Board 8212 777 72 8212 1129, Nos. 72
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • January 21, 1974
    ...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 chal......
  • Monell v. Department of Social Services of City of New York, No. 75-1914
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 6, 1978
    ...of precedents. At least two of the school board cases involved claims for monetary relief. Cohen v. Chesterfield County School Board, 326 F.Supp. 1159, 1161 (ED Va.1971), rev'd, 474 F.2d 395 (CA4 1973), rev'd and remanded, 414 U.S. 632, 94 S.Ct. 791, 39 L.Ed.2d 52 (1974); Tinker v. Des Moin......
  • Savage v. Kibbee, No. 75 Civ. 4358 (HFW).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • November 11, 1976
    ...414 U.S. 632, 94 S.Ct. 791, 39 L.Ed.2d 52 (1974) rev'g 474 F.2d 395 (4th Cir. 1973), rev'g Cohen v. Chesterfield County School Board, 326 F.Supp. 1159 (E.D.Va.1971). In this district, back pay has been awarded after Kenosha for the dismissal of a New York City employee without due process. ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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