Brief Fact Summary.
A provision of the Social Security Act afforded the chance of higher old-age benefits to female wage earners than to similarly situated males.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
The government may enact remedial legislation to benefit women in areas where they have been traditionally discriminated against.
Accordingly, a female wage earner could exclude from the computation of her average monthly wage three more lower earning years than a similarly situated male wage earner could exclude.View Full Point of Law
A provision of the Social Security Act afforded the chance of higher old-age benefits to female wage earners than to similarly situated males. A male who was dissatisfied with the amount of his benefits brought an action in district court to challenge the provision’s constitutionality.
Is the provision of the Social Security Act favoring female wage earners over male wage earners a violation of the Equal Protection Clause?
The provision of the Social Security Act favoring female wage earners over male wage earners is not a violation of the Equal Protection Clause.
The challenged provision operates directly to compensate women for past economic discrimination. Retirement benefits are based on past earnings, but whether from overt discrimination or from the socialization process of a male-dominated culture, the job market is inhospitable to the woman seeking any but the lowest paid jobs. Thus, allowing women, who as such have been unfairly hindered from earning as much as men, to eliminate additional low-earning years from the calculation of their retirement benefits works directly to remedy some part of the effect of past discrimination. The legislative history is clear that the differing treatment of men and women in the challenged provision was not the accidental byproduct of a traditional way of thinking about females but rather deliberately enacted to compensate for particular economic disabilities suffered by women.