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.
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).
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.
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
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.
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,
The United States District Court in each case held that the Human Rights Law was pre-empted, at least insofar as it
The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed as to the Human Rights Law. Delta Air Lines, Inc. v. Kramarsky, 666 F.2d 21 (1981); Metropolitan Life
Because courts have disagreed about the scope of ERISA's pre-emption provisions,
In deciding whether a federal law pre-empts a state statute, our task is to ascertain Congress' intent in enacting the federal statute at issue. "Pre-emption may be either express or implied, and `is compelled whether Congress' command is explicitly stated in the statute's language or implicitly contained in its structure and purpose.' Jones v. Rath Packing Co., 430 U.S. 519, 525 (1977)." Fidelity Federal Savings & Loan Assn. v. De la Cuesta, 458 U.S. 141, 152-153 (1982). See Exxon Corp. v. Eagerton, 462 U.S. 176,
We have no difficulty in concluding that the Human Rights Law and Disability Benefits Law "relate to" employee benefit plans. The breadth of § 514(a)'s pre-emptive reach is apparent from that section's language.
In fact, however, Congress used the words "relate to" in § 514(a) in their broad sense. To interpret § 514(a) to preempt only state laws specifically designed to affect employee benefit plans would be to ignore the remainder of § 514. It would have been unnecessary to exempt generally applicable state criminal statutes from pre-emption in § 514(b), for example, if § 514(a) applied only to state laws dealing specifically with ERISA plans.
Nor, given the legislative history, can § 514(a) be interpreted to pre-empt only state laws dealing with the subject matters covered by ERISA — reporting, disclosure, fiduciary responsibility, and the like. The bill that became ERISA originally contained a limited pre-emption clause, applicable only to state laws relating to the specific subjects covered by ERISA.
Senator Williams echoed these sentiments:
We next consider whether any of the narrow exceptions to § 514(a) saves these laws from pre-emption.
Appellants argue that the Human Rights Law is exempt from pre-emption by § 514(d), which provides that § 514(a)
State laws obviously play a significant role in the enforcement of Title VII. See, e. g., Kremer v. Chemical Construction Corp., 456 U.S. 461, 468-469, 472, 477 (1982); id., at 504 (dissenting opinion); New York Gaslight Club, Inc. v. Carey, 447 U.S. 54, 63-65 (1980). Title VII expressly preserves nonconflicting state laws in its § 708:
Moreover, Title VII requires recourse to available state administrative remedies. When an employment practice prohibited by Title VII is alleged to have occurred in a State or locality which prohibits the practice and has established an
Given the importance of state fair employment laws to the federal enforcement scheme, pre-emption of the Human Rights Law would impair Title VII to the extent that the Human Rights Law provides a means of enforcing Title VII's commands. Before the enactment of ERISA, an employee claiming discrimination in connection with a benefit plan would have had his complaint referred to the New York State Division of Human Rights. If ERISA were interpreted to pre-empt the Human Rights Law entirely with respect to covered benefit plans, the State no longer could prohibit the challenged employment practice and the state agency no longer would be authorized to grant relief. The EEOC thus would be unable to refer the claim to the state agency. This would frustrate the goal of encouraging joint state/federal enforcement of Title VII; an employee's only remedies for discrimination prohibited by Title VII in ERISA plans would be federal ones. Such a disruption of the enforcement scheme contemplated by Title VII would, in the words of § 514(d), "modify" and "impair" federal law.
ERISA's structure and legislative history, while not particularly illuminating with respect to § 514(d), caution against applying it too expansively. As we have detailed above, Congress applied the principle of pre-emption "in its broadest sense to foreclose any non-Federal regulation of employee benefit plans," creating only very limited exceptions to pre-emption. 120 Cong. Rec. 29197 (1974) (remarks of Rep. Dent); see id., at 29933 (remarks of Sen. Williams). Sections 4(b)(3) and 514(b), which list specific exceptions, do not refer to state fair employment laws. While § 514(d) may operate to exempt provisions of state laws upon which federal laws depend for their enforcement, the combination of Congress' enactment of an all-inclusive pre-emption provision and its enumeration of narrow, specific exceptions to that provision makes us reluctant to expand § 514(d) into a more general saving clause.
The references to employment discrimination in the legislative history of ERISA provide no basis for an expansive construction of § 514(d). During floor debates, Senator Mondale questioned whether the Senate bill should be amended to require nondiscrimination in ERISA plans. Senator Williams replied that no such amendment was necessary or desirable. He noted that Title VII already prohibited discrimination in benefit plans, and stated: "I believe that the thrust toward centralized administration of nondiscrimination in employment must be maintained. And I believe this can be done by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under terms of existing law." 119 Cong. Rec. 30409 (1973). Senator Mondale, "with the understanding that nondiscrimination in pension and profit-sharing plans is fully required under the Equal Employment Opportunity Act," id., at 30410, chose not to offer a nondiscrimination amendment. This colloquy was repeated on the floor of the House by Representatives Abzug and Dent. 120 Cong. Rec. 4726 (1974).
We recognize that our interpretation of § 514(d) as requiring partial pre-emption of state fair employment laws may cause certain practical problems. Courts and state agencies, rather than considering whether employment practices are
The Disability Benefits Law presents a different problem. Section 514(a) of ERISA pre-empts state laws that relate to benefit plans "described in section 4(a) and not exempt under section 4(b)." Consequently, while the Disability Benefits Law plainly is a state law relating to employee benefit plans, it is not pre-empted if the plans to which it relates are exempt from ERISA under § 4(b). Section 4(b)(3) exempts "any employee benefit plan . . . maintained solely for the purpose of complying with applicable . . . disability insurance laws." The Disability Benefits Law is a "disability insurance law," of course; the difficulty is that at least some of the benefit
As the Court of Appeals recognized, § 4(b)(3) excludes "plans," not portions of plans, from ERISA coverage; those portions of the Airlines' multibenefit plans maintained to comply with the Disability Benefits Law, therefore, are not exempt from ERISA and are not subject to state regulation. There is no reason to believe that Congress used the word "plan" in § 4(b) to refer to individual benefits offered by an employee benefit plan. To the contrary, § 4(b)(3)'s use of the word "solely" demonstrates that the purpose of the entire plan must be to comply with an applicable disability insurance law. As the Court noted in Alessi, plans that not only provide benefits required by such a law, but also "more broadly serve employee needs as a result of collective bargaining," are not exempt. 451 U. S., at 523, n. 20. The test is not one of the employer's motive — any employer could claim that it provided disability benefits altruistically, to attract good employees, or to increase employee productivity, as well as to obey state law — but whether the plan, as an administrative unit, provides only those benefits required by the applicable state law.
Any other rule, it seems to us, would make little sense. Under the District Court's approach, for which appellants argue here, one portion of a multibenefit plan would be subject only to state regulation, while other portions would be exclusively within the federal domain. An employer with employees in several States would find its plan subject to a different jurisdictional pattern of regulation in each State, depending on what benefits the State mandated under disability, workmen's compensation, and unemployment compensation laws. The administrative impracticality of permitting mutually exclusive pockets of federal and state
This is not to say, however, that the Airlines are completely free to circumvent the Disability Benefits Law by adopting plans that combine disability benefits inferior to those required by that law with other types of benefits. Congress surely did not intend, at the same time it preserved the role of state disability laws, to make enforcement of those laws impossible. A State may require an employer to maintain a disability plan complying with state law as a separate administrative unit. Such a plan would be exempt under § 4(b)(3). The fact that state law permits employers to meet their state-law obligations by including disability insurance benefits in a multibenefit ERISA plan, see N. Y. Work. Comp. Law App. § 355.6 (McKinney Supp. 1982-1983), does not make the state law wholly unenforceable as to employers who choose that option.
In other words, while the State may not require an employer to alter its ERISA plan, it may force the employer to choose between providing disability benefits in a separately administered plan and including the state-mandated benefits in its ERISA plan. If the State is not satisfied that the ERISA plan comports with the requirements of its disability insurance law, it may compel the employer to maintain a separate plan that does comply. The Court of Appeals erred, therefore, in holding that appellants are not at all free to enforce the Disability Benefits Law against those appellees that provide disability benefits as part of multibenefit plans.
We hold that New York's Human Rights Law is preempted with respect to ERISA benefit plans only insofar as it prohibits practices that are lawful under federal law. To
We further hold that the Disability Benefits Law is not pre-empted by ERISA, although New York may not enforce its provisions through regulation of ERISA covered benefit plans. We therefore vacate the Court of Appeals' judgment in the Airlines' case on this ground and remand that case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
No costs are allowed.
It is so ordered.
"1. It shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice:
"(a) For an employer or licensing agency, because of the age, race, creed, color, national origin, sex, or disability, or marital status of any individual, to refuse to hire or employ or to bar or to discharge from employment such individual or to discriminate against such individual in compensation or in terms, conditions or privileges of employment."
"The terms `because of sex' or `on the basis of sex' include, but are not limited to, because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions; and women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for all employment-related purposes, including receipt of benefits under fringe benefit programs, as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work, and nothing in section 703(h) of this title shall be interpreted to permit otherwise."
"§ 204. Disability during employment
"1. Disability benefits shall be payable to an eligible employee for disabilities. . . beginning with the eighth consecutive day of disability and thereafter during the continuance of disability, subject to the limitations as to maximum and minimum amounts and duration and other conditions and limitations in this section and in sections two hundred five and two hundred six. . . .
"2. The weekly benefit which the disabled employee is entitled to receive for disability commencing on or after July first, nineteen hundred seventy-four shall be one-half of the employee's average weekly wage, but in no case shall such benefit exceed ninety-five dollars nor be less than twenty dollars; except that if the employee's average weekly wage is less than twenty dollars, his benefit shall be such average weekly wage. . . .
"§ 205. Disabilities and disability periods for which benefits are not payable
"No employee shall be entitled to benefits under this article:
"1. For more than twenty-six weeks during a period of fifty-two consecutive calendar weeks or during any one period of disability."
"Except as provided in subsection (b) of this section, the provisions of this title and title IV shall supersede any and all State laws insofar as they may now or hereafter relate to any employee benefit plan described in section 4(a) and not exempt under section 4(b)."
The term "State law" includes "all laws, decisions, rules, regulations, or other State action having the effect of law, of any State." § 514(c)(1), 29 U. S. C. § 1144(c)(1). The term "State" includes "a State, any political subdivisions thereof, or any agency or instrumentality of either, which purports to regulate, directly or indirectly, the terms and conditions of employee benefit plans covered by this title." § 514(c)(2), 29 U. S. C. § 1144(c)(2).
In Burroughs' case, the District Court enjoined prosecution of Burroughs for its refusal to compensate New York employees for pregnancy-related disability claims between January 1, 1975 (the effective date of ERISA) and April 1, 1979 (which the court mistakenly believed to be the effective date of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act). App. to Juris. Statement A103-A104. In Metropolitans case, the District Court enjoined enforcement of the Human Rights Law with respect to employee benefit plans subject to ERISA. The court's order was not limited to pregnancy benefits and did not refer specifically to any time period. Id., at A119-A120.
The cases, of course, are not moot with respect to the period before the effective date of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, since enforcement of the Human Rights Law would subject appellees to liability.
The Court of Appeals observed that this Court had denied certiorari in Pervel, which reached the opposite result, only a week before dismissing the appeal in Minnesota Mining. Understandably viewing this sequence of events as "rather mystifying," 650 F. 2d, at 1296, the court noted that dismissals of appeals are binding precedents for the lower courts, see Hicks v. Miranda, 422 U.S. 332, 343-345, and n. 14 (1975), while denials of certiorari have no precedential force. After this Court's decision in Alessi v. Raybestos-Manhattan, Inc., 451 U.S. 504 (1981), the Court of Appeals granted rehearing and returned to its Pervel reasoning, holding that Alessi was a "doctrinal development," see Hicks v. Miranda, 422 U. S., at 344-345, that warranted departure from the precedent set by the Court's summary dispositions. 666 F. 2d, at 25-26.
It is beyond dispute that federal courts have jurisdiction over suits to enjoin state officials from interfering with federal rights. See Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123, 160-162 (1980). A plaintiff who seeks injunctive relief from state regulation, on the ground that such regulation is pre-empted by a federal statute which, by virtue of the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, must prevail, thus presents a federal question which the federal courts have jurisdiction under 28 U. S. C. § 1331 to resolve. See Smith v. Kansas City Title & Trust Co., 255 U.S. 180, 199-200 (1921); Louisville & Nashville R. Co. v. Mottley, 211 U.S. 149, 152 (1908); see also Franchise Tax Board, ante, at 19-22, and n. 20; Note, Federal Jurisdiction over Declaratory Suits Challenging State Action, 79 Colum. L. Rev. 983, 996-1000 (1979). This Court, of course, frequently has resolved pre-emption disputes in a similar jurisdictional posture. See, e. g., Ray v. Atlantic Richfield Co., 435 U.S. 151 (1978); Jones v. Rath Packing Co., 430 U.S. 519 (1977); Florida Lime & Avocado Growers, Inc. v. Paul, 373 U.S. 132 (1963); Hines v. Davidowitz, 312 U.S. 52 (1941).
Of course, § 514(a) pre-empts state laws only insofar as they relate to plans covered by ERISA. The Human Rights Law, for example, would be unaffected insofar as it prohibits employment discrimination in hiring, promotion, salary, and the like.
"Both [original] House and Senate bills provided for preemption of State law, but — with one major exception appearing in the House bill — defined the perimeters of preemption in relation to the areas regulated by the bill. Such a formulation raised the possibility of endless litigation over the validity of State action that might impinge on Federal regulation, as well as opening the door to multiple and potentially conflicting State laws hastily contrived to deal with some particular aspect of private welfare or pension benefit plans not clearly connected to the Federal regulatory scheme.
"Although the desirability of further regulation — at either the State or Federal level — undoubtedly warrants further attention, on balance, the emergence of a comprehensive and pervasive Federal interest and the interests of uniformity with respect to interstate plans required — but for certain exceptions — the displacement of State action in the filed of private employee benefit programs."
Senator Javits noted that the conferees had assigned the Congressional Pension Task Force the responsibility of studying and evaluating ERISA pre-emption in order to determine whether modifications in the preemption policy would be necessary. Ibid. See ERISA §§ 3021, 3022(a)(4), 88 Stat. 999 (formerly codified as 29 U. S. C. §§ 1221, 1222(a)(5)). After a period of monitoring by the Task Force, and hearings by the Subcommittee on Labor Standards of the House Committee on Education and Labor, a Report was issued evaluating ERISA's pre-emption provisions. The Report expressed approval of ERISA's broad pre-emption of state law, explaining that "the Federal interest and the need for national uniformity are so great that enforcement of state regulation should be precluded." H. R. Rep. No. 94-1785, p. 47 (1977). The Report recommended only that the exceptions described in § 514(b) be narrowed still further. Ibid.
The legislative history of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act does not assist appellants. Although the House Report observed that many employers already were subject to state laws prohibiting pregnancy discrimination, H. R. Rep. No. 95-948, pp. 9-11 (1978); see S. Rep. No. 95-331, pp. 10-11 (1977), this observation subsequent to ERISA's enactment conveys no information about the intent of the Congress that passed ERISA. The conferees did not even mention ERISA; evidently, they simply failed to consider whether ERISA plans were subject to state laws prohibiting pregnancy discrimination.