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Union Sues AT&T for Alleged Pregnancy Discrimination

March 21, 2001|From Bloomberg News

SAN FRANCISCO — AT&T Corp. was sued by the Communications Workers of America union, which accused the No. 1 U.S. long-distance phone company of discriminating against female employees who took pregnancy leave before April 1979.

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, seeks class-action status for about 15,000 women on disability leave before April 29, 1979, for pregnancy, the union said. Union spokeswoman Candice Johnson declined to specify damages being sought.

AT&T required pregnant employees to take personal leave, which reduced their pensions and retirement benefits, said the union, which represents 35,000 AT&T employees. A law banning discrimination for pregnancy took effect in 1979, and the company changed its policy without adjusting benefits of women on leave before 1979, the union said.

Former AT&T unit Pacific Bell in 1998 agreed to a multimillion-dollar settlement after a U.S. appeals court ruled that the company's pregnancy leave policy violated pension and civil rights laws, the union said.

"We're generally considered a progressive company to work for, whether you're pregnant or not," said AT&T spokesman Burke Stinson. He had not seen the complaint.

The complaint came a day after the union and pension funds filed a lawsuit in a New York state court to block an AT&T proposal making it easier for the company to win shareholder approval of its plan to split into three companies.

Shares of New York-based AT&T, also the biggest U.S. cable television company, closed off $1 at $22.35 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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