PHI 2397 Lecture 21
The Companies that Treated Women as Wombs
• A case of discrimination?
• U.S. Supreme Court 4999 U.S. (1991) - International Union vs. Johnson Controls, Inc.
o Johnsons Controls - maker of batteries, using lead
o Some jobs had a high exposure to lead, that could be contribute to neurological problems
Could be especially dangerous during pregnancy, to the fetus
• The jobs that included the high risk of lead exposure, had the "the best paying jobs"
o Company policy, stage 1 (1977)
• Warning to women, risks i f pregnant, required consent by employee to work at a particular job
• With the signed agreement, the women could not hold the company responsible for any health effects
o Company policy, stage 2 (1982)
• After unsafe levels of lead found in blood of 8 pregnant women
• Company decides to change the policy, to ensure that the company doesn't get into trouble
• Company bans women from exposure, they were not allowed these jobs in the company to avoid lead
§ Since this is the highest paying job, the women woul d have to change jobs with lower pay
§ The only way for them to be able to work at this position, is for the women to show medical
evidence that they are infertile, or that they have passed the age for having a baby
Union - United Automobile Workers (UAW) takes the company to court, to the policy that involves
discrimination against women
• "What also hung over the modern fetal protection debate, if largely unspoken, was the spectre of
• The union also mentioned how the company had no i nterest in the risks to men
§ If a man has no restriction in taking a job, then women should be able to make the decision for
themselves as well
• Supreme court rules
§ The company IS discrimination against women with their policy
§ Even though the policy is well -intended, it is unacceptable for a company to put these
restrictions on women
§ The company cannot specially protect pregnant women, its considered discrimination
"If Bhopal Happened Today, Would the World React Any Different?"
• Union Carbide plant in Bhopa l, India 1984
o "The work industrial accident in history"
o Plant produced pesticides; gas leak (methyl isocyanate)
o 3,000 died quickly, and thousands more were affected later, and died
Many serious health effects; also many animal deaths
o "Measures by local managers and flaws in safety systems designed in the U.S."
• Since the company is from the U.S there were many things that didn’t translate into India
• Things weren't going well
1985 Union Carbide offers $7 million interim relief
• Expected claims against company - billions
o 1986 Union Carbide offers $350 million in settlement
o 1987 U.S court transfers all litigation to India
o 1993 U.S. supreme court confirms this
• "In the 1990s, the U.S. supreme court issued rulings making it exceedingly difficult to settle large class
actions concerning illnesses link to asbestos exposure […] the justices all but sealed American courts to
suits seeking damages form multinationals based on activities outside the U.S."
• U.S courts thus allowing lack of regulation equivalence de veloped vs. developing countries • The fact that the company was sued in a developing country, the safety and health standards are a lot