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.
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
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
We granted certiorari in both cases, 411 U.S. 947, in order to resolve the conflict between the Courts of Appeals regarding the constitutionality of such mandatory maternity leave rules for public school teachers.
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
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, at 541, 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
It cannot be denied that continuity of instruction is a significant and legitimate educational goal. Regulations requiring pregnant teachers to provide early notice of their condition to school authorities undoubtedly facilitate administrative planning toward the important
Thus, while the advance-notice provisions in the Cleveland and Chesterfield County rules are wholly rational and may well be necessary to serve the objective of continuity of instruction, the absolute requirements of termination at the end of the fourth or fifth month of pregnancy are not. Were continuity the only goal, cutoff dates much later during pregnancy would serve as well as or better than the challenged rules, providing that ample advance notice requirements were retained. Indeed, continuity would seem just as well attained if the teacher herself were allowed to choose the date upon which to commence her leave, at least so long as the decision were required to be made and notice given of it well in advance of the date selected.
In fact, since the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy
We thus conclude that the arbitrary cutoff dates embodied in the mandatory leave rules before us have no rational relationship to the valid state interest of preserving continuity of instruction. As long as the teachers are required to give substantial advance notice of their condition, the choice of firm dates later in pregnancy would serve the boards' objectives just as well, while imposing a far lesser burden on the women's exercise of constitutionally protected freedom.
The question remains as to whether the cutoff dates at the beginning of the fifth and sixth months can be justified on the other ground advanced by the school boards—the necessity of keeping physically unfit teachers out of the classroom. There can be no doubt that such an objective is perfectly legitimate, both on educational and safety grounds. And, despite the plethora of conflicting medical testimony in these cases, we can assume,
The mandatory termination provisions of the Cleveland and Chesterfield County rules surely operate to insulate the classroom from the presence of potentially incapacitated pregnant teachers. But the question is whether the rules sweep too broadly. See Shelton v. Tucker, 364 U.S. 479. That question must be answered in the affirmative, for the provisions amount to a conclusive presumption that every pregnant teacher who reaches the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy is physically incapable of continuing. There is no individualized determination by the teacher's doctor—or the school board's—as to any particular teacher's ability to continue at her job. The rules contain an irrebuttable presumption of physical incompetency, and that presumption applies even when the medical evidence as to an individual woman's physical status might be wholly to the contrary.
As the Court noted last Term in Vlandis v. Kline, 412 U.S. 441, 446, "permanent irrebuttable presumptions have long been disfavored under the Due Process Clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments." In Vlandis, the Court declared unconstitutional, under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, a Connecticut statute mandating an irrebuttable presumption of non-residency for the purposes of qualifying for reduced tuition rates at a state university. We said in that case, id., at 452:
Similarly, in Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645, the Court held that an Illinois statute containing an irrebuttable presumption that unmarried fathers are incompetent to raise their children violated the Due Process Clause. Because of the statutory presumption, the State took custody of all illegitimate children upon the death of the mother, without allowing the father to attempt to prove his parental fitness. As the Court put the matter:
Hence, we held that the State could not conclusively presume that any particular unmarried father was unfit to raise his child; the Due Process Clause required a more individualized determination. See also United States Dept. of Agriculture v. Murry, 413 U.S. 508; id., at 514-517 (concurring opinion); Bell v. Burson, 402 U.S. 535; Carrington v. Rash, 380 U.S. 89.
These principles control our decision in the cases before us. While the medical experts in these cases differed on many points, they unanimously agreed on one—the ability of any particular pregnant woman to continue at work past any fixed time in her pregnancy is very much an individual matter.
The school boards have argued that the mandatory termination dates serve the interest of administrative convenience, since there are many instances of teacher pregnancy, and the rules obviate the necessity for case-by-case determinations. Certainly, the boards have an interest in devising prompt and efficient procedures to achieve their legitimate objectives in this area. But, as the Court stated in Stanley v. Illinois, supra, at 656:
While it might be easier for the school boards to conclusively presume that all pregnant women are unfit to teach past the fourth or fifth month or even the first month, of pregnancy, administrative convenience alone is insufficient to make valid what otherwise is a violation of due process of law.
We conclude, therefore, that neither the necessity for continuity of instruction nor the state interest in keeping
In addition to the mandatory termination provisions, both the Cleveland and Chesterfield County rules contain limitations upon a teacher's eligibility to return to work after giving birth. Again, the school boards offer two justifications for the return rules—continuity of instruction and the desire to be certain that the teacher is physically competent when she returns to work. As is the case with the leave provisions, the question is not whether the school board's goals are legitimate, but rather whether the particular means chosen to achieve those objectives unduly infringe upon the teacher's constitutional liberty.
Under the Cleveland rule, the teacher is not eligible to return to work until the beginning of the next regular school semester following the time when her child attains the age of three months. A doctor's certificate attesting to the teacher's health is required before return; an additional physical examination may be required at the option of the school board.
The respondents in No. 72-777 do not seriously challenge either the medical requirements of the Cleveland rule or the policy of limiting eligibility to return to the next semester following birth. The provisions concerning a medical certificate or supplemental physical examination are narrowly drawn methods of protecting the
The Cleveland rule, however, does not simply contain these reasonable medical and next-semester eligibility provisions. In addition, the school board requires the mother to wait until her child reaches the age of three months before the return rules begin to operate. The school board has offered no reasonable justification for this supplemental limitation, and we can perceive none. To the extent that the three-month provision reflects the school board's thinking that no mother is fit to return until that point in time, it suffers from the same constitutional deficiencies that plague the irrebuttable presumption in the termination rules.
Thus, we conclude that the Cleveland return rule, insofar as it embodies the three-month age provision, is wholly arbitrary and irrational, and hence violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The age limitation serves no legitimate state interest, and unnecessarily penalizes the female teacher for asserting her right to bear children.
We perceive no such constitutional infirmities in the Chesterfield County rule. In that school system, the teacher becomes eligible for re-employment upon submission of a medical certificate from her physician; return to work is guaranteed no later than the beginning of the next school year following the eligibility determination.
For the reasons stated, we hold that the mandatory termination provisions of the Cleveland and Chesterfield County maternity regulations violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, because of their use of unwarranted conclusive presumptions that seriously burden the exercise of protected constitutional liberty. For similar reasons, we hold the three-month provision of the Cleveland return rule unconstitutional.
Accordingly, the judgment in No. 72-777 is affirmed; the judgment in No. 72-1129 is reversed, and the case is remanded to the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS concurs in the result.
MR. JUSTICE POWELL, concurring in the result.
I concur in the Court's result, but I am unable to join its opinion. In my view these cases should not be decided on the ground that the mandatory maternity leave regulations impair any right to bear children or create an "irrebuttable presumption." It seems to me that equal protection analysis is the appropriate frame of reference.
These regulations undoubtedly add to the burdens of childbearing. But certainly not every government policy that burdens childbearing violates the Constitution. Limitations on the welfare benefits a family may receive that do not take into account the size of the family illustrate this point. See Dandridge v. Williams, 397 U.S. 471 (1970). Undoubtedly Congress could, as another example, constitutionally seek to discourage excessive population growth by limiting tax deductions for dependents. That would represent an
I am also troubled by the Court's return to the "irrebuttable presumption" line of analysis of Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645 (1972) (POWELL, J., not participating), and Vlandis v. Kline, 412 U.S. 441 (1973). Although I joined the opinion of the Court in Vlandis and continue fully to support the result reached there, the present cases have caused me to re-examine the "irrebuttable presumption" rationale. This has led me to the conclusion that the Court should approach that doctrine with extreme care. There is much to what MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST says in his dissenting opinion, post, at 660, about the implications of the doctrine for the traditional legislative power to operate by classification. As a matter of logic, it is difficult to see the terminus of the road upon which the Court has embarked under the banner of "irrebuttable presumptions." If the Court nevertheless uses "irrebuttable presumption" reasoning selectively, the concept at root often will be something else masquerading as a due process doctrine. That something else, of course, is the Equal Protection Clause.
These cases present precisely the kind of problem susceptible of treatment by classification. Most school teachers are women, a certain percentage of them are pregnant at any given time, and pregnancy is a normal biological function possessing, in the great majority of cases, a fairly well defined term. The constitutional difficulty is not that the boards attempted to deal with
A range of possible school board goals emerge from the cases. Several may be put to one side. The records before us abound with proof that a principal purpose behind the adoption of the regulations was to keep visibly pregnant teachers out of the sight of schoolchildren.
To be sure, the boards have a legitimate and important interest in fostering continuity of teaching. And, even a normal pregnancy may at some point jeopardize that interest. But the classifications chosen by these boards, so far as we have been shown, are either counterproductive or irrationally overinclusive even with regard to this significant, nonillusory goal. Accordingly, in my opinion these regulations are invalid under rational-basis standards of equal protection review.
The boards' reference to continuity of teaching also encompasses their need to assure constant classroom coverage by teachers who are up to the task. This interest is obviously legitimate. No one disputes that a school board must concern itself with the physical and emotional capabilities of its teachers. But the objectionable portions of these regulations appear to be bottomed on factually unsupported assumptions about the ability of pregnant teachers to perform their jobs. The overwhelming weight of the medical testimony adduced in these cases is that most teachers undergoing normal pregnancies are quite capable of carrying out their responsibilities until some ill-defined point a short period prior to term. Certainly the boards have made little effort to contradict this conclusion. Thus, it appears that by forcing all pregnant teachers undergoing a normal
The boards' reliance on the goal of continuity of teaching also takes into account their obvious planning needs. Boards must know when pregnant teachers will temporarily cease their teaching responsibilities, so that substitutes may be scheduled to fill the vacancies. And, planning requires both notice of pregnancy and a fixed termination date. It appears, however, that any termination date serves the purpose.
For the above reasons, I believe the linkage between the boards' legitimate ends and their chosen means is too attenuated to support those portions of the regulations overturned by the Court. Thus, I concur in the Court's result. But I think it important to emphasize the degree of latitude the Court, as I read it, has left the boards for dealing with the real and recurrent problems presented by teacher pregnancies. Boards may demand in every case "substantial advance notice of
In my opinion, such class-wide rules for pregnant teachers are constitutional under traditional equal protection standards.
But despite my reservations as to the rationale of the majority, I nevertheless conclude that in these cases the gap between the legitimate interests of the boards and the particular means chosen to attain them is too wide. A restructuring generally along the lines indicated in the Court's opinion seems unavoidable. Accordingly, I concur in its result.
MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST, with whom THE CHIEF JUSTICE joins, dissenting.
The Court rests its invalidation of the school regulations involved in these cases on the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, rather than on any claim of sexual discrimination under the Equal Protection Clause of that Amendment. My Brother STEWART thereby enlists the Court in another quixotic engagement in his apparently unending war on irrebuttable presumptions. In these cases we are told that although a regulation "requiring a termination of employment at some firm date during the last few weeks of pregnancy," ante, at 647 n. 13. might pass muster, the regulations here challenged requiring termination at the end of the fourth or fifth month of pregnancy violate due process of law.
As THE CHIEF JUSTICE pointed out in his dissent last year in Vlandis v. Kline, 412 U.S. 441, "literally thousands of state statutes create classifications permanent in duration, which are less than perfect, as all legislative classifications are, and might be improved on by individualized determinations . . . ." Id., at 462. Hundreds of years ago in England, before Parliament came to be thought of as a body having general lawmaking power,
Countless state and federal statutes draw lines such as those drawn by the regulations here which, under the Court's analysis, might well prove to be arbitrary in individual cases. The District of Columbia Code, for example, draws lines with respect to age for several purposes. The Code requires that a person to be eligible to vote be 18 years of age,
More closely in point is the jeopardy in which the Court's opinion places longstanding statutes providing for mandatory retirement of government employees. Title 5 U. S. C. § 8335 provides with respect to Civil Service employees:
It was pointed out by my Brother STEWART only last year in his concurring opinion in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 168, that "the `liberty' protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment covers more than those freedoms explicitly named in the Bill of Rights. . . . Cf. . . . Truax v. Raich, 239 U.S. 33, 41." In Truax v. Raich, the Court said:
Since this right to pursue an occupation is presumably on the same lofty footing as the right of choice in matters of family life, the Court will have to strain valiantly in order to avoid having today's opinion lead to the invalidation of mandatory retirement statutes for governmental employees. In that event federal, state, and local governmental bodies will be remitted to the task, thankless both for them and for the employees involved, of individual determinations of physical impairment and senility.
The lines drawn by the school boards in the city of Cleveland and Chesterfield County in these cases require pregnant teachers to take forced leave at a stage of their pregnancy when medical evidence seems to suggest that a majority of them might well be able to continue teaching without any significant possibility of physical impairment. But, so far as I am aware, the medical evidence also suggests that in some cases there may be physical impairment at the stage of pregnancy fastened on by the regulations in question, and that the probability of physical impairment increases as the pregnancy advances. If legislative bodies are to be permitted to draw a general line anywhere short of the delivery room, I can find no judicial standard of measurement which says the ones drawn here were invalid. I therefore dissent.
"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 at 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 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.)
"a. Notice in writing must be given to the School Board at least six (6) months prior to the date of expected birth.
"b. Termination of employment of an expectant mother shall become effective at least four (4) months prior to the expected birth of the child. Termination of employment may be extended if the superintendent receives written recommendations from the expectant mother's physician and her principal, and if the superintendent feels that an extension will be in the best interest of the pupils and school involved.
"c. Maternity Leave
"(1) Maternity leave must be requested in writing at the time of termination of employment.
"(2) Maternity leave will be granted only to those persons who have a record of satisfactory performance.
"(3) An individual will be declared eligible for re-employment when she submits written notice from her physician that she is physically fit for full-time employment and when she can give full assurance that care of the child will cause minimal interference with job responsibilities.
"(4) Re-employment will be guaranteed no later than the first day of the school year following the date that the individual was declared eligible for re-employment.
"(5) All personnel benefits accrued, including seniority, will be retained during maternity leave unless the person concerned shall have accepted other employment.
"(6) The school system will have discharged its responsibility under this policy after offering re-employment for the first vacancy that occurs after the individual has been declared eligible for re-employment."
For opinions of the district courts dealing with mandatory maternity leaves, see, e. g., Heath v. Westerville Board of Education, 345 F.Supp. 501 (SD Ohio); Pocklington v. Duval County School Board, 345 F.Supp. 163 (MD Fla.); Bravo v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago, 345 F.Supp. 155 (ND Ill.); Williams v. San Francisco Unified School District, 340 F.Supp. 438 (ND Cal.); Seaman v. Spring Lake Park Independent School District, 363 F.Supp. 944 (Minn.); Monell v. Department of Social Services, 357 F.Supp. 1051 (SDNY).
Cf. Struck v. Secretary of Defense, 460 F.2d 1372 (CA9), vacated and remanded to consider the issue of mootness, 409 U.S. 1071; Gutierrez v. Laird, 346 F.Supp. 289 (DC); Robinson v. Rand, 340 F.Supp. 37 (Colo.) (all dealing with Air Force regulations requiring separation of pregnant personnel).
The practical impact of our decision in the present cases may have been somewhat lessened by several recent developments. At the time that the teachers in these cases were placed on maternity leave, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 78 Stat. 253, 42 U. S. C. § 2000e et seq., did not apply to state agencies and educational institutions. 42 U. S. C. §§ 2000e (b) and 2000e-1. On March 24, 1972, however, the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972 amended Title VII to withdraw those exemptions. Pub. L. 92-261, 86 Stat. 103. Shortly thereafter, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission promulgated guidelines providing that a mandatory leave or termination policy for pregnant women presumptively violates Title VII. 29 CFR § 1604.10, 37 Fed. Reg. 6837. While the statutory amendments and the administrative regulations are, of course, inapplicable to the cases now before us, they will affect like suits in the future.
In addition, a number of other federal agencies have promulgated regulations similar to those of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, forbidding discrimination against pregnant workers with regard to sick leave policies. See, e. g., 5 CFR § 630.401 (b) (Civil Service Commission); 41 CFR § 60-20.3 (g) (Office of Federal Contract Compliance). See generally Koontz, Childbirth and Child Rearing Leave: Job-Related Benefits, 17 N. Y. L. F. 480, 487-490; Comment, Love's Labors Lost: New Conceptions of Maternity Leaves, 7 Harv. Civ. Rights-Civ. Lib. L. Rev. 260, 280-281. We, of course, express no opinion as to the validity of any of these regulations.
The school boards have not contended in this Court that these considerations can serve as a legitimate basis for a rule requiring pregnant women to leave work; we thus note the comments only to illustrate the possible role of outmoded taboos in the adoption of the rules. Cf. Green v. Waterford Board of Education, 473 F. 2d, at 635 ("Whatever may have been the reaction in Queen Victoria's time, pregnancy is no longer a dirty word").
Of course, it may be that the Cleveland rule is based upon another theory—that new mothers are too busy with their children within the first three months to allow a return to work. Viewed in that light, the rule remains a conclusive presumption, whose underlying factual assumptions can hardly be said to be universally valid.