LaFleur v. Cleveland Board of Education, No. 71-1598.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtCLARK, Associate Justice, PHILLIPS, , and EDWARDS, Circuit
Citation465 F.2d 1184
PartiesJo Carol LaFLEUR and Ann Elizabeth Nelson, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. CLEVELAND BOARD OF EDUCATION et al., Appellees. The Women's Equity Action League (WEAL) et al. Amicus Curiae
Decision Date27 July 1972
Docket NumberNo. 71-1598.

465 F.2d 1184 (1972)

Jo Carol LaFLEUR and Ann Elizabeth Nelson, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
CLEVELAND BOARD OF EDUCATION et al., Appellees.

The Women's Equity Action League (WEAL) et al.
Amicus Curiae

No. 71-1598.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.

July 27, 1972.


465 F.2d 1185

Carol Agin Kipperman, Chicago, Ill., Lewis R. Katz, Cleveland, Ohio, for appellants.

Charles F. Clarke, William C. Hartman, George W. Pring, Arthur A. Kola, Isaac Schulz, of Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, Cleveland, Ohio, for appellees.

Sidney Picker, Jr., Shaker Heights, Ohio, for WEAL, amicus curiae.

John de J. Pemberton, Jr., Acting Gen. Counsel, EEOC, Julia P. Cooper, Susan Deller Ross, Washington, D. C., Howard Besser, Dist. Atty., Cleveland, Ohio, for EEOC, amicus curiae.

Lucille Huston, Davis & Young, Cleveland, Ohio, for American Civil Liberties Union, amicus curiae.

Stephen I. Schlossberg, John A. Fillion, Jordan Rossen, Stanley Lubin, Edwin G. Fabre, Detroit, Mich., for UAW, amicus curiae.

David Rubin, Deputy Gen. Counsel, N.E.A., Jerry D. Anker, Norman J. Blumenfeld, Lichtman, Abeles & Anker, Washington, D. C., for National Education Assn., amicus curiae.

Before CLARK, Associate Justice,* PHILLIPS, Chief Judge, and EDWARDS, Circuit Judge.

EDWARDS, Circuit Judge.

This is a complaint alleging violation of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. It is brought on behalf of two pregnant school teachers in the Cleveland school system under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1970). Each has been placed on "maternity leave" involuntarily and seeks reinstatement with back pay and injunctive relief against the implementation of the school board's maternity leave policy. Each claims that the school board's rule is an unconstitutional discrimination on grounds of sex.

The rule appellants attack has the effect of requiring a pregnant teacher to take unpaid leave of absence from her school duties five months before the expected birth of a child and to continue on such status thereafter until the beginning of the first school term following the date when the baby becomes three months old.

The school board rule under attack provides as follows:

"Any married teacher who becomes pregnant and who desires to return to the employ of the Board at a future date may be granted a maternity leave of absence without pay.
"APPLICATION A maternity leave of absence shall be effective not less than five (5) months before the expected date of the normal birth of the child. Application for such leave shall be forwarded to the Superintendent as least two (2) weeks before the effective date of the leave of absence. A leave of absence without pay shall be granted by the Superintendent for a period not to exceed two (2) years.
"REASSIGNMENT A teacher may return to service from maternity leaves not earlier than the beginning of the regular school semester which follows the child\'s age of three (3) months. In unusual circumstances, exceptions to this requirement may be made by the Superintendent with the approval of the Board. Written request for return to service from maternity leave must reach the Superintendent at least six (6) weeks prior to the beginning of the semester when the teacher expects to resume teaching and shall be accompanied by a doctor\'s certificate stating the health and
465 F.2d 1186
physical condition of the teacher. The Superintendent may require an additional physical examination.
"When a teacher qualifies to return from maternity leave, she shall have priority in reassignment to a vacancy for which she is qualified under her certificate, but she shall not have prior claim to the exact position she held before the leave of absence became effective.
"A teacher\'s failure to follow the above rules for maternity leave of absence shall be construed as termination of contract or as grounds for dismissal." (emphasis in original)

The District Judge who heard this case took extensive testimony, made findings of fact and concluded that the Cleveland Board of Education's rule did not discriminate against women and was not so unreasonable or arbitrary as to be unconstitutional. The basic rationale for the District Judge's holding is set forth as follows :

"The evidence shows that the primary purpose for the initiation of this rule was to protect the continuity of the classroom program. The school board maintains this rule in an attempt to bring the disruption of the classroom program to a minimum. They further maintain that use of the one month advance notice requirement gives the school board the most accurate indication as to when the teacher will discontinue her duties and the new instructor will assume the responsibility of the study program. The purpose is also to allow the new teacher to become familiar with the classroom program and the students under the guidance of the original teacher who is about to depart. Furthermore, the purpose is to give the school board notice so that the original teacher\'s unexpected and sudden leave will not occur, and thus guaranteeing classroom continuity and providing the best possible safeguard against the disruption of the students\' education. The intended purpose of the section in the regulation which permits the teacher to return at the beginning of the regular school semester following the child\'s age of three months is designed to protect the health of the mother and the child and assure continuity of the classroom program." LaFleur v. Cleveland Board of Education, 326 F.Supp. 1208, 1211 (N.D. Ohio 1971).

Appellants' contentions are that the rule is arbitrary and unreasonable in its overbreadth and that it is a discriminatory rule applicable to only one sex, in violation of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

It is relevant for us to note two developments which have occurred since this case was argued. First, in a split decision a panel of the Fifth Circuit held a distinctly less onerous maternity leave rule of the Texas Employment Commission not to be arbitrary and unreasonable in a constitutional sense. Schattman v. Texas Employment Commission, 459 F.2d 32 (5th Cir. 1972). (Decided March 1, 1972, order amending Judge Wisdom's Opinion dated March 17, 1972.)

Second, Congress has now amended Title VII of the Equal Employment Opportunity Act to make it applicable to public schools. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(a), P. L. 92-261, 86 Stat. 103 (1972). The EEOC has also adopted a rule prohibiting special maternity leave disability rules as discriminatory on grounds of sex. 29 C.F.R. § 1604.10(b), 37 Fed. Reg. 6837 (April 5, 1972).

While clearly neither of these last decisions controls our present case, they do tend to lessen the reach of our holding.

The Cleveland Board of Education maternity leave rule was adopted in 1952. It is considerably more severe in its effect upon employment of pregnant teachers than the Texas Employment Commission rule dealt with in the Schattman case, or any other similar rule which has been called to our attention. Depending on the period of the year when the birth of the child was...

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27 practice notes
  • Fagan v. National Cash Register Company, No. 71-1243.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • June 29, 1973
    ...men could work a nine-hour day but women were limited to an eight-hour stint. La Fleur v. Cleveland Board of Education (6 Cir.1972), 465 F.2d 1184, saw invidious discrimination based on sex because of enforced maternity leave without pay. The Fifth Circuit in 1971 saw sex discrimination in ......
  • 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
    ...the District Court opinion, LaFleur v. Cleveland Board of Education, 326 F.Supp. 1208 (E.D.Ohio 1971), nor the Court of Appeals opinion, 465 F.2d 1184 (6 Cir. 1972), mentions who the et al. defendants were. The District Court opinion in the companion case of Cohen v. Chesterfield County Sch......
  • Smith v. Troyan, Nos. 73-2226
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • July 3, 1975
    ...however, the members of the classes in Cleveland Bd. of Educ. v. LaFleur, 414 U.S. 632, 94 S.Ct. 791, 39 L.Ed.2d 52 (1974), aff'g 465 F.2d 1184 (6th Cir. 1972), had more (their pregnancies or lack thereof) in common than their genders, but the Supreme Court, instead of equal protection anal......
  • Smith v. City of East Cleveland, No. C 73-299.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Ohio
    • September 6, 1973
    ...in a Changing Court: A Model for a Newer Equal Protection," 86 Harv.L.Rev. 1, 20, 27-33 (1972); LaFleur v. Cleveland Board of Education, 465 F.2d 1184 (6th Cir. 1972), cert. granted, 411 U.S. 947, 83 S. Ct. 1921, 36 L.Ed.2d 408 (1973);7 Brenden v. Independent School District 724, 477 F.2d 1......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
27 cases
  • Fagan v. National Cash Register Company, No. 71-1243.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • June 29, 1973
    ...men could work a nine-hour day but women were limited to an eight-hour stint. La Fleur v. Cleveland Board of Education (6 Cir.1972), 465 F.2d 1184, saw invidious discrimination based on sex because of enforced maternity leave without pay. The Fifth Circuit in 1971 saw sex discrimination in ......
  • 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
    ...the District Court opinion, LaFleur v. Cleveland Board of Education, 326 F.Supp. 1208 (E.D.Ohio 1971), nor the Court of Appeals opinion, 465 F.2d 1184 (6 Cir. 1972), mentions who the et al. defendants were. The District Court opinion in the companion case of Cohen v. Chesterfield County Sch......
  • Smith v. Troyan, Nos. 73-2226
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • July 3, 1975
    ...however, the members of the classes in Cleveland Bd. of Educ. v. LaFleur, 414 U.S. 632, 94 S.Ct. 791, 39 L.Ed.2d 52 (1974), aff'g 465 F.2d 1184 (6th Cir. 1972), had more (their pregnancies or lack thereof) in common than their genders, but the Supreme Court, instead of equal protection anal......
  • Smith v. City of East Cleveland, No. C 73-299.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Ohio
    • September 6, 1973
    ...in a Changing Court: A Model for a Newer Equal Protection," 86 Harv.L.Rev. 1, 20, 27-33 (1972); LaFleur v. Cleveland Board of Education, 465 F.2d 1184 (6th Cir. 1972), cert. granted, 411 U.S. 947, 83 S. Ct. 1921, 36 L.Ed.2d 408 (1973);7 Brenden v. Independent School District 724, 477 F.2d 1......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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