City of Los Angeles v. Manhart
435 U.S. 702 (1978)

Facts:
As a class, women live longer than men. For this reason, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power required its female employees to make larger contributions to its pension fund than its male employees.

  • The Department required female employees to make monthly contributions to the fund which were 14.84% higher than the contributions required of comparable male employees.
  • There were 2,000 female employees and 10,000 male employees.

Issue:
Whether the existence or nonexistence of “discrimination” is to be determined by comparison of class characteristics or individual characteristics.

Holding:
Individual characteristics. Thus, the challenged differential violated both the language and policy of Title VII.

Reasoning:

  • The statute’s focus on the individual is unambiguous:
    • It is unlawful “to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”
  • Even if the language of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were less clear, the basic policy of the statute requires that the courts focus on fairness to individuals rather than fairness to classes.
  • Furthermore, in the insurance context, treating different classes of risks as though they were the same for purposes of group insurance is a common practice – e.g., healthy persons subsidize medical benefits for the less healthy.

Rule: For Title VII purposes, the existence or nonexistence of discrimination is to be determined by a comparison of individual characteristics and NOT class characteristics.