The Women’s Equity Action League on Friday hailed a court decision awarding $2 million to about 9,000 women in Rhode Island as a result of a suit brought by the Justice Department under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
“This is another one of those waves that is beginning to crest a little bit in the workplace,” said Marge Jensen, spokeswoman for the women’s rights group.
She was reacting to a ruling by U.S. District Judge Raymond Pettine of Providence, R.I., who established the $2-million figure as the amount to be distributed to women judged by the court to have been discriminated against in terms of disability benefits.
The department filed a civil rights suit in September, 1983, against the Rhode Island Department of Employment Security. It charged the agency had discriminated against women employees of private businesses covered by the program by treating pregnancy and childbirth differently from disabilities caused by other medical conditions.
The suit was filed against the agency because it administers Rhode Island’s temporary disability benefits insurance program.
In a ruling a week ago, Pettine ordered the state to distribute the $2 million, an average of $122 to each of the women, after his earlier ruling that Rhode Island was liable for damages under the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
The suit charged the state agency and its director, Mary C. Hackett, with violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.