422 U.S. 405 (1975), 74-389, Albemarle Paper Co. v. Moody

Docket Nº:No. 74-389
Citation:422 U.S. 405, 95 S.Ct. 2362, 45 L.Ed.2d 280
Party Name:Albemarle Paper Co. v. Moody
Case Date:June 25, 1975
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 405

422 U.S. 405 (1975)

95 S.Ct. 2362, 45 L.Ed.2d 280

Albemarle Paper Co.

v.

Moody

No. 74-389

United States Supreme Court

June 25, 1975

Argued April 14, 1975

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Respondents, a certified class of present and former Negro employees, brought this action against petitioners, their employer, Albemarle Paper Co., and the employees' union, seeking injunctive relief against "any policy, practice, custom or usage" at the plant violative of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, and, after several years of discovery, moved to add a class backpay demand. At the trial, the major issues were the plant's seniority system, its program of employment testing, and backpay. The District Court found that, following a reorganization [95 S.Ct. 2366] under a new collective bargaining agreement, the Negro employees had been "`locked' in the lower paying job classifications," and ordered petitioners to implement a system of plantwide seniority. The court refused, however, to order backpay for losses sustained by the plaintiff class under the discriminatory system, on the grounds that (1) Albemarle's breach of Title VII was found not to have been in "bad faith," and (2) respondents, who had initially disclaimed interest in backpay, had delayed making their backpay claim until five years after the complaint was filed, thereby prejudicing petitioners. The court also refused to enjoin or limit Albemarle's testing program, which respondents had contended had a disproportionate adverse impact on blacks and was not shown to be related to job performance, the court concluding that "personnel tests administered at the plant have undergone validation studies and have been proven to be job-related." Respondents appealed on the backpay and pre-employment tests issues. The Court of Appeals reversed the District Court's judgment.

Held:

1. Given a finding of unlawful discrimination, backpay should be denied only for reasons that, if applied generally, would not frustrate the central statutory purposes manifested by Congress in enacting Title VII of eradicating discrimination throughout the

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economy and making persons whole for injuries suffered through past discrimination. Pp. 413-422.

2. The absence of bad faith is not a sufficient reason for denying backpay, Title VII not being concerned with the employer's "good intent or absence of discriminatory intent," for "Congress directed the thrust of the Act to the consequences of employment practices, not simply the motivation," Griggs v. Duke Power Co., 401 U.S. 424, 432. Pp. 422-423.

3. Whether respondents' tardiness and inconsistency in making their backpay demand were excusable and whether they actually prejudiced petitioners are matters that will be open to review by the Court of Appeals if the District Court, on remand, decides again to decline a backpay award. Pp. 423-425.

4. As is clear from Griggs, supra, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Guidelines for employers seeking to determine through professional validation studies whether employment tests are job-related, such tests are impermissible unless shown, by professionally acceptable methods, to be

predictive of or significantly correlated with important elements of work behavior which comprise or are relevant to the job or jobs for which candidates are being evaluated.

Measured against that standard, Albemarle's validation study is materially defective in that (1) it would not, because of the odd patchwork of results from its application, have "validated" the two general ability tests used by Albemarle for all the skilled lines of progression for which the two tests are, apparently, now required; (2) it compared test scores with subjective supervisorial rankings, affording no means of knowing what job performance criteria the supervisors were considering; (3) it focused mostly on job groups near the top of various lines of progression, but the fact that the best of those employees working near the top of a line of progression score well on a test does not necessarily mean that the test permissibly measures the qualifications of new workers entering lower level jobs; and (4) it dealt only with job-experienced, white workers, but the tests themselves are given to new job applicants, who are younger, largely inexperienced, and in many instances nonwhite. Pp. 425-435.

5. In view of the facts that, during the appellate stages of this litigation, Albemarle has apparently been amending its departmental organization and the use made of its tests; that issues of [95 S.Ct. 2367] standards of proof for job-relatedness and of evidentiary procedures involving validation tests have not until now, been clarified;

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and that provisional use of tests pending new validation effort may be authorized, the District Court, on remand, should initially fashion the necessary relief. P. 436.

474 F.2d 134, vacated and remanded.

STEWART, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which DOUGLAS, BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., post, p. 440, and REHNQUIST, J., post, p. 441, filed concurring opinions. BLACKMUN, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 447. BURGER, C.J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, post, p. 449. POWELL, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the cases.

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STEWART, J., lead opinion

MR JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

These consolidated cases raise two important questions under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 78 Stat. 253, as amended by the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, 86 Stat. 103, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (1970 ed. and Supp. III): First: when employees or applicants for employment have lost the opportunity to earn wages because an employer has engaged in an unlawful discriminatory employment practice, what standards should a federal district court follow in deciding whether to award or deny backpay? Second: what must an employer show to establish that pre-employment tests racially discriminatory in effect, though not in intent, are sufficiently "job-related" to survive challenge under Title VII?

I

The respondents -- plaintiffs in the District Court -- are a certified class of present and former Negro employees at a paper mill in Roanoke Rapids, N.C.; the petitioners -- defendants in the District Court -- are the plant's owner, the Albemarle Paper Co., and the plant employees' labor union, Halifax Local No. 425.1 In August, 1966, after filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and receiving notice of their right to sue,2 the

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respondents brought a class action in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, asking permanent injunctive relief against "any policy, practice, custom or usage" at the plant that violated Title VII. The respondents assured the court that the suit involved no claim for any monetary awards on a class basis, but, in June, 1970, after several years of discovery, the respondents moved to add a class demand for backpay. The court ruled that this issue would be considered at trial.

At the trial, in July and August, 1971, the major issues were the plant's seniority system, its program of employment testing, and the question of backpay. In its opinion of November 9, 1971, the court found that the petitioners had "strictly segregated" the plant's departmental "lines of progression" prior to January 1, 1964, reserving the higher paying and more skilled lines for whites. The "racial identifiability" of whole lines of progression persisted until 1968, when the lines were reorganized under a new collective bargaining agreement. The court found, however, that this reorganization left Negro employees "`locked' in the lower paying job classifications." The formerly "Negro" lines of progression had been merely tacked [95 S.Ct. 2368] on to the bottom of the formerly "white" lines, and promotions, demotions, and layoffs continued to be governed -- where skills were "relatively equal" -- by a system of "job seniority." Because of the plant's previous history of overt segregation, only whites had seniority in the higher job categories. Accordingly, the court ordered the petitioners to implement a system of "plantwide" seniority.

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The court refused, however, to award backpay to the plaintiff class for losses suffered under the "job seniority" program.3 The court explained:

In the instant case, there was no evidence of bad faith noncompliance with the Act. It appears that the company, as early as 1964, began active recruitment of blacks for its Maintenance Apprentice Program. Certain lines of progression were merged on its own initiative, and as judicial decisions expanded the then existing interpretations of the Act, the defendants took steps to correct the abuses without delay. . . .

In addition, an award of back pay is an equitable remedy. . . . The plaintiffs' claim for back pay was filed nearly five years after the institution of this action. It was not prayed for in the pleadings. Although neither party can be charged with deliberate dilatory tactics in bringing this cause to trial, it is apparent that the defendants would be substantially prejudiced by the granting of such affirmative relief. The defendants might have chosen to exercise unusual zeal in having this court determine their rights at an earlier date had they known that back pay would be at issue.

The court also refused to enjoin or limit Albemarle's testing program. Albemarle had required applicants for employment in the skilled lines of progression...

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