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SHAW v. DELTA AIR LINES

decided*fn*: June 24, 1983.

SHAW, ACTING COMMISSIONER, NEW YORK STATE DIVISION OF HUMAN RIGHTS, ET AL
v.
DELTA AIR LINES, INC., ET AL.



APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT.

Blackmun, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Author: Blackmun

[ 463 U.S. Page 88]

 JUSTICE BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court.

New York's Human Rights Law forbids discrimination in employment, including discrimination in employee benefit plans on the basis of pregnancy. The State's Disability Benefits Law requires employers to pay sick-leave benefits to employees unable to work because of pregnancy or other nonoccupational disabilities. The question before us is whether these New York laws are pre-empted by the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.

I

A

The Human Rights Law, N. Y. Exec. Law §§ 290-301 (McKinney 1982 and Supp. 1982-1983), is a comprehensive antidiscrimination statute prohibiting, among other practices, employment discrimination on the basis of sex. § 296.1(a).*fn1 The New York Court of Appeals has held that a private employer whose employee benefit plan treats pregnancy differently from other nonoccupational disabilities engages in sex discrimination within the meaning of the Human Rights Law. Brooklyn Union Gas Co. v. New York State Human Rights Appeal Board, 41 N. Y. 2d 84, 359 N. E. 2d 393 (1976). In contrast, two weeks before the decision in Brooklyn Union Gas, this Court ruled that discrimination based on pregnancy was not sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 78 Stat. 253, as amended,

[ 463 U.S. Page 8942]

     U. S. C. § 2000e et seq. General Electric Co. v. Gilbert, 429 U.S. 125 (1976).*fn2 Congress overcame the Gilbert ruling by enacting § 1 of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, 92 Stat. 2076, 42 U. S. C. § 2000e(k) (1976 ed., Supp. V), which added subsection (k) to § 701 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.*fn3 See Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co. v. EEOC, 462 U.S. 669, 678 (1983). Until that Act took effect on April 29, 1979, see § 2(b), 92 Stat. 2076, the Human Rights Law in this respect had a reach broader than Title VII.

The Disability Benefits Law, N. Y. Work. Comp. Law §§ 200-242 (McKinney 1965 and Supp. 1982-1983), requires employers to pay certain benefits to employees unable to work because of nonoccupational injuries or illness. Disabled employees generally are entitled to receive the lesser of $95 per week or one-half their average weekly wage, for a maximum of 26 weeks in any 1-year period. §§ 204.2, 205.1. Until August 1977, the Disability Benefits Law provided that employees were not entitled to benefits for pregnancy-related disabilities. § 205.3 (McKinney 1965). From August 1977 to June 1981, employers were required to provide eight weeks of benefits for pregnancy-related disabilities.

[ 463 U.S. Page 901977]

     N. Y. Laws, ch. 675, § 29 (formerly codified as N. Y. Work. Comp. Law § 205.3). This limitation was repealed in 1981, see 1981 N. Y. Laws, ch. 352, § 2, and the Disability Benefits Law now requires employers to provide the same benefits for pregnancy as for any other disability.*fn4

B

The federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), 88 Stat. 829, as amended, 29 U. S. C. § 1001 et seq. (1976 ed. and Supp. V), subjects to federal regulation plans providing employees with fringe benefits. ERISA is a comprehensive statute designed to promote the interests of employees and their beneficiaries in employee benefit plans. See Nachman Corp. v. Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., 446 U.S. 359, 361-362 (1980); Alessi v. Raybestos-Manhattan, Inc., 451 U.S. 504, 510 (1981). The term "employee benefit plan" is defined as including both pension plans and welfare

[ 463 U.S. Page 91]

     plans.*fn5 The statute imposes participation, funding, and vesting requirements on pension plans. §§ 201-306, 29 U. S. C. §§ 1051-1086 (1976 ed. and Supp. V). It also sets various uniform standards, including rules concerning reporting, disclosure, and fiduciary responsibility, for both pension and welfare plans. §§ 101-111, 401-414, 29 U. S. C. §§ 1021-1031, 1101-1114 (1976 ed. and Supp. V). ERISA does not mandate that employers provide any particular benefits, and does not itself proscribe discrimination in the provision of employee benefits.

Section 514(a) of ERISA, 29 U. S. C. § 1144(a), pre-empts "any and all State laws insofar as they may now or hereafter relate to any employee benefit plan" covered by ERISA.*fn6 State laws regulating insurance, banking, or securities are exempt from this pre-emption provision, as are generally applicable state criminal laws. §§ 514(b)(2)(A) and (b)(4), 29 U. S. C. §§ 1144(b)(2)(A) and (b)(4). Section 514(d), 29 U. S. C. § 1144(d), moreover, provides that "[nothing] in this title shall be construed to alter, amend, modify, invalidate, impair, or supersede any law of the United States . . . or any rule or regulation issued under any such law." And § 4(b)(3)

[ 463 U.S. Page 92]

     of ERISA, 29 U. S. C. § 1003(b)(3), exempts from ERISA coverage employee benefit plans that are "maintained solely for the purpose of complying with applicable workmen's compensation laws or unemployment compensation or disability insurance laws."

II

Appellees in this litigation, Delta Air Lines, Inc., and other airlines (Airlines), Burroughs Corporation (Burroughs), and Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (Metropolitan), provided their employees with various medical and disability benefits through welfare plans subject to ERISA. These plans, prior to the effective date of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, did not provide benefits to employees disabled by pregnancy as required by the New York Human Rights Law and the State's Disability Benefits Law. Appellees brought three separate federal declaratory judgment actions against appellant state agencies and officials,*fn7 alleging that the Human Rights Law was pre-empted by ERISA. The Airlines in their action alleged that the Disability Benefits Law was similarly pre-empted.*fn8

The United States District Court in each case held that the Human Rights Law was pre-empted, at least insofar as it

[ 463 U.S. Page 93]

     required the provision of pregnancy benefits prior to the effective date of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.*fn9 With respect to the Airlines' challenge to the Disability Benefits Law, the District Court construed § 4(b)(3) of ERISA as exempting from the federal statute "those provisions of an employee plan which are maintained to comply with" state disability insurance laws. Delta Air Lines, Inc. v. Kramarsky, 485 F.Supp. 300, 307 (SDNY 1980). Because it concluded that the Airlines would have provided pregnancy ...


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