On Mar. 20, in one of the most closely watched business cases of the current term, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a Milwaukee company's policy of barring women of child-bearing age from jobs where they might be exposed to lead is illegal discrimination. The ruling came in the case of Johnson Controls, whose products include car batteries.
The justices said the company's policy did not qualify for an exemption from federal antibias laws, ruling that such exceptions must be directly related to an individual's ability to do a job. The ruling is a victory for women's groups, which said policies like Johnson's are a way to keep women out of the workplace. But the court left open the question of how companies might legally protect workers in high-risk jobs.