Autoworkers V. Johnson Controls Case Brief

1. Caption and Procedural History In the case of Auto Workers V. Johnson Controls, the Plaintiffs brought a class action suit against Johnson Control in federal district courts over illegal sex discrimination under Title VII. The district court entered a summary judgment for Johnson Controls. The court of appeals affirmed the district court’s decision, leading the plaintiff to then appeal to the U. S. Supreme Court. J. Blackmun delivered the opinion of the court in which Marshall, Stevens, O’Connor, and Souter joined. J. White filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in judgment, in which Rehnquist and Kennedy joined.

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J. Scalia filed an opinion concurring in judgment. Case was decided in March 20, 1991. 2. Facts The defendant, Johnson Controls Inc, is a manufacturer of batteries who rely heavily on the usage lead in their manufacturing process. Johnson Company initially only provided warnings to employees, until 8 female workers became pregnant and were found to have higher levels of lead in their blood then recommended by OSHA. The exposure to lead had been determined to be potentially harmful to a fetus, thus Johnson Controls created a policy excluding women with childbearing abilities from positions where they would be exposed. . Issues In this case the question at hand is whether Johnson Controls fetal-protection policy meets the criteria to be considered a safety exception under the BFOQ set forth in Title VII which allows an employer to discriminate on the basis of sex “in those certain instances where sex is a Bona Fide Occupational Qualification reasonably necessary to the normal operation of particular business. ” 4. Holding No, the decisions over the wellbeing of potential future children are a burden of the parents who conceive them, not their employer. 5.

Reason/Rationale In this case the court considered the defendant’s argument that discrimination on the basis of sex because of safety concerns is allowed in certain situations. To help illustrate this point the court examined Dothard v. Rawlinson, a case where a maximum-security male penitentiary was allowed to hire only male guards to be in contact with inmates because more was at stake then simply their own safety. This case, used by the defendant, was rejected by the court in that in this situation the well being of third parties were not involved.

The court also considered that while there was a risk to the fetus, the extent of injury that is likely to occur was not addressed. Even without this information, the policy reaches to far in that there is no showing that it is necessary to ensure the safe and efficient operation of Johnson Controls. The court also considered that until 1982, Johnson Controls operated without this policy and has since failed to provide information to lead one to believe that it is reasonably necessary to its normal operations or that they suffered any adverse effects prior to its implementation.

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