338 F.3d 1201 (11th Cir. 2003), 98-6164, Reynolds v. McInnes

Docket Nº:98-6164
Citation:338 F.3d 1201
Party Name:Reynolds v. McInnes
Case Date:July 22, 2003
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

Page 1201

338 F.3d 1201 (11th Cir. 2003)

Johnny REYNOLDS, individually and on behalf of himself and representative of a class of black employees of the Highway Department, State of Alabama, similarly situated, Plaintiff-Appellee,

Cecil Parker, et al., Intervenors-Plaintiffs,

William Adams, Cheryl Caine, Tim Colquitt, William Flowers, Wilson Folmar, George Kyser, Becky Pollard, Ronnie Pouncey, Terry Robinson, Tim Williams, on behalf of themselves and all similarly situated persons (Non-Class Employees), Intervenors-Plaintiffs-Appellants,


Joe McINNES, in his official capacity as Director of the Alabama Department of Transportation, Halycon Vance Ballard, individually, Tommy G. Flowers, as Director of Personnel Department, State of Alabama, Department of Transportation, State of Alabama, Department of Personnel, State of Alabama, Bob Riley, in his official capacity as Governor of the State of Alabama, Defendants-Appellants.

No. 98-6164.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

July 22, 2003

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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J. Michael Cooper, Raymond P. Fitzpatrick, Jr., R. Scott Clark, Fitzpatrick, Cooper & Clark, Susan Salonimer Wagner, Lisa Wright Borden, Wesley C. Redmond, Berkowitz, Lefkovits, Isom & Kushner, C. Dennis Hughes, London & Yancey, LLC, Birmingham, AL, Michael E. Lackey, Jr., Mayer, Brown & Platt, Washington, DC, David R. Boyd, Balch & Bingham, Julian L. McPhillips, Jr., McPhillips, Shinbaum & Gill, Troy King, Montgomery, AL, for Appellants.

Robert L. Wiggins, Jr., Russell Wayne Adams, Ann K. Wiggins, Kell A. Simon, Robert F. Childs, Jr., Gordon, Silberman, Wiggins & Childs, P.A., Birmingham, AL, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.

Before CARNES, HILL and FARRIS [*], Circuit Judges.

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CARNES, Circuit Judge:

This appeal arises out of the ongoing Reynolds employment discrimination litigation between the defendants Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) and the State Personnel Department (SPD), two plaintiff classes of black employees and prospective employees of ALDOT, and an intervening class of non-black employees. The litigation has been ongoing for eighteen years, and before today we have previously issued published opinions in five separate appeals arising out of it.1 We have eight appeals involving the case presently pending at one stage or another before us. This one results from the district court's February 11, 1998 order, in the nature of an injunction, requiring ALDOT to implement certain multi-grade job classifications in order to comply with Article Fifteen, ¶ 3 of a 1994 consent decree in the case. The defendants contend that the district court erred in entering that injunctive relief without conducting contempt proceedings. Alternatively, they contend that the district court erred in interpreting and applying Article Fifteen, ¶ 3 of the consent decree. As we will explain, we conclude that the defendants' first contention is barred because it was not raised in the district court, but we agree with their second one. We also have some observations to make about the litigation as a whole.


The complicated procedural history of the underlying case has been set forth in detail in three of our previous opinions. Reynolds v. Roberts, 251 F.3d 1350, 1352-55 (11th Cir. 2001) ("Reynolds III"), cert. denied, 534 U.S. 1161, 122 S.Ct. 1171, 152 L.Ed.2d 115 (2002); Reynolds v. Roberts, 207 F.3d 1288, 1292-93 (11th Cir. 2000) ("Reynolds II"), cert denied, 533 U.S. 941, 121 S.Ct. 2576, 150 L.Ed.2d 739 (2001); Reynolds v. Roberts, 202 F.3d 1303, 1305-07 (11th Cir. 2000) ("Reynolds I"). We assume the reader's familiarity with that history but will summarize it briefly before moving to the particular facts and events material to this appeal.

In 1985, the named plaintiff brought this suit against ALDOT, SPD, and various state officials on behalf of all black employees and applicants for employment with ALDOT. The complaint alleged racial discrimination in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e to 2000e-17), and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. The district court certified three plaintiff classes: (1) a class of all black merit employees of ALDOT who had been denied promotion; (2) a class of all black non-merit employees who had unsuccessfully sought employment as merit employees; and (3) a class of all black non-employees who had unsuccessfully sought employment as merit employees. Reynolds II, 207 F.3d at 1292 n. 2. The district court later combined the second and third classes into a single class. Reynolds III, 251 F.3d at 1353 n. 2.

In 1993, the parties reached a partial settlement and presented a proposed consent decree to the district court. Before a fairness hearing was held, a group of white ALDOT employees moved the court for leave to intervene on behalf of ALDOT's

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employees who were not part of the plaintiff classes.2 The intervenors objected to certain race-conscious provisions in the proposed consent decree. The parties agreed to divide the proposed consent decree into three separate parts, and the part that the parties call Consent Decree I was approved in March 1994.3 Id. at 1354.

The appeal before us concerns Article Fifteen of that 1994 consent decree, which provides for the reclassification of certain multi-grade jobs within ALDOT. Multi-grade jobs consist of several levels within a single job classification that correspond to differences in duties, responsibilities, and qualifications. Article Fifteen, ¶ 3(a) requires SPD to study certain multi-grade job classifications, including the jobs of Engineering Assistant (EA) and Civil Engineer (CE).4 When the study began in 1994, those jobs had several classification levels: EA was classified into three levels (I, II, and III), and CE was classified into four levels (I, II, III, and IV).

The consent decree provides that upon completion of the job classification study, the jobs may be collapsed or restructured in order to comply with the decree. Article Fifteen, ¶ 3(b) requires:

In the event such job classification study discloses that existing distinctions in the levels of multi-grade jobs do not reflect actual differences in duties, responsibilities, or qualifications, the jobs will be collapsed or restructured so that (i) they will reflect the actual distinctions, if any, shown by the study and (ii) are capable of being administered and utilized so that only persons occupying that classification perform the duties associated with it on a regular or non-emergency basis.

In practice, after completing the study, SPD made recommendations to the State Personnel Board about how to restructure ALDOT jobs in the manner required by Article Fifteen.

Pursuant to Article Fifteen, ¶ 3(b), upon completion of the job classification study and consistent with its results, on April 17, 1996, SPD recommended and the State Personnel Board approved a new classification structure for ALDOT. (The specifics of the study and how SPD arrived at the new structure are discussed in detail later in this opinion.) Among other recommendations, the new structure called for the collapse of the former classifications of EA II and III into EA II/III, of CE I and II into CE I/II, and of CE III and IV into CE III/IV.

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The plaintiffs filed objections to the results of the job classification study in December 1996. One of their objections was to the proposed restructuring of the EA and CE jobs. The plaintiffs objected on the grounds that the proposed structure was inconsistent with the empirical results of the SPD study and that it did not satisfy the requirements of ¶ 3(b) of the consent decree. They requested that the district court modify SPD's classification plan by collapsing all Article Fifteen, ¶ 3(a) classifications so that there would be a single EA classification and a single CE classification.

With the parties' consent, the district court referred issues concerning the job classification study to the magistrate judge for his report and recommendations. The magistrate judge held an evidentiary hearing on the matter on June 17 and 18, 1997. He reviewed the descriptions for jobs in the new classification structure using a progression/promotion distinction (suggested by an expert for the defendants as one possible way of differentiating between jobs), with the "progression" label being applied when the job duties changed little except in terms of complexity, responsibility, or difficulty, and the "promotion" label being applied when the job duties changed to a higher level.

The magistrate judge concluded that the proper construction of ¶ 3(b) was that in different levels of a job classification the employees may perform similar duties as long as higher levels of the classification reflect true distinctions that are more than just progressions in proficiency. He concluded that the proposed EA I and EA II/III positions had no distinction other than proficiency in the performance of the duties of the positions. Further, he concluded that the only major distinctions between the CE I/II and CE III/IV positions were in the level of the supervisory responsibilities and the level of the complexity of the jobs, and he characterized those distinctions as only progressions in proficiency. Therefore, he determined that SPD's proposed classifications for EA and CE did not comply with the consent decree. He recommended that the EA and CE jobs be consolidated into single classifications, as the plaintiffs had proposed.

The defendants objected to the magistrate judge's recommendations that the EA and CE jobs be combined into single...

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