303 F.Supp. 754 (M.D.Ala. 1969), Civ. A. 2796, Cheatwood v. South Central Bell Tel. & Tel. Co.

Docket Nº:Civ. A. 2796
Citation:303 F.Supp. 754
Party Name:Cheatwood v. South Central Bell Tel. & Tel. Co.
Case Date:February 12, 1969
Court:United States District Courts, 11th Circuit, Middle District of Alabama

Page 754

303 F.Supp. 754 (M.D.Ala. 1969)

Claudine B. CHEATWOOD, Plaintiff,



Civ. A. No. 2796-N.

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division.

Feb. 12, 1969

Order and Judgment July 31, 1969

Page 755

J. R. Goldthwaite and Patrick M. Scanlon, of Adair, Goldthwaite, Stanford & Daniel, Atlanta, Ga., for plaintiff.

Walter R. Byars, of Steiner, Crum & Baker, Montgomery, Ala., and Atley Kitchings, Jr., Birmingham, Ala., of South Central Bell Tel. & Tel. Co., for defendant.

FRANK M. JOHNSON, Jr., Chief Judge.

On Motion to Strike Demand for Jury

This cause is now submitted on plaintiff's motion to strike defendant's timely filed demand for a jury trial.

In determining the issues thus raised, this Court must turn first to the complaint to determine the relief requested. The prayer is as follows:

'1. For monetary damages in the sum of $12,000 to make her whole for the discrimination in employment which she has suffered;

'2. For Court order directing defendant to assign plaintiff to employment as Commercial Representative;

'3. For an injunction against the defendant's further discriminating against female employees by refusing to consider their applications for vacancies in the job classifications of Commercial Representative and other similar classifications;

'4. For the assessment of a reasonable attorney's fee to be awarded to plaintiff for payment for the services rendered by her attorney in connection with this action.'

South Central Bell argues that the Seventh Amendment, Beacon Theatres, Inc. v. Westover, 359 U.S. 500, 79 S.Ct. 948, 3 L.Ed.2d 988 (1959), and Dairy Queen, Inc. v. Wood, 369 U.S. 469, 82 S.Ct. 894, 8 L.Ed.2d 44 (1962), require a jury trial on the issue of plaintiff's prayer for back pay. There is no doubt that the other remedies sought are equitable; the only question now presented by this motion is whether the claim for back pay raises a legal issue.

Certainly the statutory language seems to treat the back pay issue as one for the trial judge rather than a jury. 42 U.S.C. 2000e-5(g) provides:

'If the court finds that the respondent has intentionally engaged in or is intentionally engaging in an unlawful employment practice charged in the complaint, the court may enjoin the respondent from engaging in such unlawful employment practice, and order such affirmative action as may be appropriate, which may include reinstatement or hiring of employees, with or without back pay (payable by the

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employer, employment agency, or labor organization, as the case may be, responsible for the unlawful employment practice).'

This was the interpretation given the language in a rather similar context. Swofford v. B & W, Inc., 336 F.2d 406, 411-412 (5th Cir. 1964).

The only authority squarely on point denied a jury trial in a Title VII back pay case. See Hayes v. Seaboard Coast Line R.R. Co., 46 F.R.D. 49, S.D.Ga., Dec. 9, 1968, and cases there cited. The Supreme Court has held that there is no right to a jury trial on an award of back pay under 10(c) of the National Labor Relations Act. NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., 301 U.S. 1, 48-49, 57 S.Ct. 615, 629, 81 L.Ed. 893 (1937). The Court there stated:

'The instant case is not a suit at common law or in the nature of such a suit. The proceeding is one unknown to the common law. It is a statutory proceeding. Reinstatement of the employee and payment for time lost are requirements imposed for violation of the statute and are remedies appropriate to its enforcement. The contention under the Seventh Amendment is without merit.'

Defendant relies heavily on Harkless v. Sweeny Independent School District, 278 F.Supp. 632 (S.D.Tex.1968), in which the Court granted a jury trial on the issue of back pay in an action under 42 U.S.C. 1983 seeking reinstatement as teachers after a discharge allegedly based on racial discrimination. Section 1983, unlike Title VII, speaks directly on an 'action at law.' To the extent that Harkless is inconsistent with Hayes, however, this Court chooses to follow Hayes. Harkless seems to depend on what this Court views as the mistaken proposition that Dairy Queen v. Wood, supra, overruled sub silentio NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., supra. As indicated above, the latter case did not rely on the characterization of a back pay award 'as merely incidental to the equitable remedy,' condemned in Dairy Queen, but rather held that the back pay award was not in the nature of a suit at common law.

Accordingly, it is ordered that plaintiff's motion to strike defendant's demand for a jury trial be and the same is hereby granted.


In this action Mrs. Claudine B. Cheatwood charges her employer, South Central Bell Telephone & Telegraph Company, with discrimination...

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