585 F.2d 625 (4th Cir. 1978), 76-1988, Sledge v. J.P. Stevens & Co., Inc.

Docket Nº:76-1988, 76-2150 and 76-2303.
Citation:585 F.2d 625
Party Name:Dec. P 8657 Lucy SLEDGE et al., Individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Appellees, Textile Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO, CLC, Intervenor-Appellee, v. J. P. STEVENS & CO., INC., Appellants. Lucy SLEDGE, Thomas Hawkins, Herman Jones, Mable Moody Miles, Clara Purnell, Patricia Purnell, Luke Phipps and Marie Robinson, Appellan
Case Date:October 04, 1978
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

Page 625

585 F.2d 625 (4th Cir. 1978)

Dec. P 8657

Lucy SLEDGE et al., Individually and on behalf of all others

similarly situated, Appellees,

Textile Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO, CLC, Intervenor-Appellee,


J. P. STEVENS & CO., INC., Appellants.

Lucy SLEDGE, Thomas Hawkins, Herman Jones, Mable Moody

Miles, Clara Purnell, Patricia Purnell, Luke

Phipps and Marie Robinson, Appellants,


Textile Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO, CLC, Intervenor-Appellee,


J. P. STEVENS & CO., INC., Appellee.

Lucy M. SLEDGE et al., Individually and on behalf of all

others similarly situated, Appellants,

Textile Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO, CLC, Intervenor-Appellee,


J. P. STEVENS & COMPANY, INC., Appellee.

Nos. 76-1988, 76-2150 and 76-2303.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

October 4, 1978

Argued March 16, 1977.

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Whiteford S. Blakeney, Charlotte, N. C. (Blakeney, Alexander & Machen, Charlotte, N. C., on brief), for appellant in 76-1988 and for appellee in 76-2303.

Richard T. Seymour, Washington, D. C. (T. T. Clayton, Clayton & Ballance, Warrenton, N. C., Richard B. Sobol, Washington, D. C., Jack Greenberg, O. Peter Sherwood, New York City, Julius L. Chambers, Chambers, Stein, Ferguson & Becton, Charlotte, N. C., on brief), for appellants in 76-2303.

Jonathan R. Harkavy, Greensboro, N. C. (Smith, Patterson, Follin, Curtis & James, Greensboro, N. C., Arthur M. Goldberg, New York City, Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union, AFL-CIO on brief), for appellee in 76-1988 and 76-2150.

Abner W. Sibal, Gen. Counsel, Joseph T. Eddins, Associate Gen. Counsel, Charles L. Reischel, Asst. Gen. Counsel, and Paul E. Mirengoff, Atty., Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Washington, D. C., on brief, as amicus curiae.

Before CRAVEN, Circuit Judge, [*] FIELD, Senior Circuit Judge, and WIDENER, Circuit Judge.

FIELD, Senior Circuit Judge:

An across-the-board assault upon the employment practices of the J. P. Stevens & Company, Inc., was initiated on October 2, 1970, when thirteen black residents of North Carolina filed this action seeking individual and class relief against the company. 1 The individual plaintiffs, past and present employees of J. P. Stevens' Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, operations, as well as unsuccessful applicants for work, claimed that the defendant unlawfully discriminated

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against them in particular and against blacks in general in hiring new employees and assigning them to work; in promoting its workers to more desirable and higher-paying jobs; in recalling employees from layoff; and in fixing the terms and conditions of individuals' employment. For these and other alleged violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, Et seq., and Section 1 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, they sought injunctive and other relief, including back pay. 2

Recognizing that the defendant maintains scores of facilities in five southern states, and that the particular grievances of the named plaintiffs related only to Stevens' eight plants and three offices in Roanoke Rapids, the district court conditionally certified the action under Rule 23 as a class action, but set reasonable bounds to the litigation by designating the plaintiffs as representatives of a class which consisted of "(a)ll Negroes employed at all the Roanoke Rapids plants of J. P. Stevens & Company, Inc., on and after October 2, 1967," and "(a)ll Negroes who have applied for employment at said Roanoke Rapids plants since October 2, 1967, who claim to have been affected by the alleged racially discriminatory employment practices of the defendant." 3 All parties and their counsel were prohibited from initiating, without leave of court, communications of any kind concerning the case with actual or potential class members who were not formal parties.

Upon motion of the plaintiffs in which the defendant concurred, the district court bifurcated the proceedings, directing that resolution of the issue of the defendant's liability was to precede the determination of all questions primarily involving possible monetary relief for the class. Evidence as to liability was taken by the court, sitting without a jury, on November 6-10, 1972, and the plaintiffs introduced well over one hundred exhibits, many of them computer-generated statistical analyses of J. P. Stevens' employment practices. Plaintiffs also presented the testimony of the persons who prepared the statistical exhibits, two expert mathematical statisticians, two employees of the North Carolina Employment Security Commission, eight of the named plaintiffs, and several other Stevens employees from Roanoke Rapids, including the defendant's personnel director, a data processing employee, and one departmental overseer. The defendant countered with six hand-tabulated statistical exhibits, the testimony of its administrative assistant to the general manager of the Roanoke Rapids operations, and the testimony of fourteen of its black employees. The court entertained briefs and arguments in the spring of 1973, but postponed decision until after the Supreme Court decided Albemarle Paper Co. v. Moody, 422 U.S. 405, 95 S.Ct. 2362, 45 L.Ed.2d 280 (1975).

Extensive written findings of fact and conclusions of law were filed on December 22, 1975. 4 The court concluded that the claims of all the named plaintiffs should be dismissed since one of them had voluntarily withdrawn from the litigation and the other twelve had "failed to prove their individual claims of employment discrimination." 5

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However, based upon precedent in this Circuit which it viewed as "an apparent anomaly in practice and procedure in employment discrimination class actions," the court ruled that the dismissal of the claims of the individual plaintiffs would not affect the action as to the unnamed class members. The allegation of classwide discrimination was thus considered on its merits, and Stevens was found to have engaged in unlawful employment practices against the class in violation of Title VII and Section 1981. Specifically, the court was of the opinion that a Prima facie case had been established against the defendant, not by proof of any "specific, overt racially discriminatory employment practices," but by "statistical evidence and evidence of seemingly neutral practices." 6 The court held that Stevens had not met the burden of rebutting this Prima facie showing. 7

Having concluded that Stevens had violated the law and that the plaintiff class was entitled to relief, the court held that such relief should encompass (1) an injunction against all racially discriminatory employment acts, omissions, and practices which the evidence had established; (2) back pay to members of the class from a date three years prior to the filing of the action on conditions later to be prescribed; and (3) an award of reasonable attorney's fees and costs. Following court-directed conferences which involved counsel for the parties as well as the Textile Workers Union of America (which represents some of the defendant's employees and was permitted to intervene solely to help fashion and effectuate a decree), the parties submitted their proposed decrees, after which the court heard objections to them and additional evidence was received.

On June 25, 1976, the district court entered a 31-page remedial decree which imposed a broad and detailed regimen of continuing affirmative obligations upon the defendant. 8 As a prefatory matter, the decree enjoined future acts of racial discrimination at the Roanoke Rapids facilities, but provided that Stevens would not be required to place any person in a job for which he is objectively unfit and cannot be made fit with reasonable training. The decree then prescribed strict racial ratios for future hiring, job placement, and promotions, and directed the defendant to eliminate racial disparities in earnings. Specific wage criteria for job assignments were defined, and it was ordered that departmental seniority for blacks be replaced by a constructive plant seniority plan. Stevens was also ordered to post job vacancies, establish job descriptions, and develop remedial

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training and recruiting programs. Additionally, job bidding procedures, red-circling of wages, and "bumping" standards were imposed. Certain expenses were awarded the plaintiffs, and procedural machinery was created to enforce the decree, including reporting and inspection provisions.

Turning finally to the matter of the back pay relief for which it had found as a matter of law the defendant would be liable, the court postponed any specific decision on the amount of such relief or its distribution, choosing instead to first ascertain the names of all potential claimants and to require of each of them, under penalty of waiving their possible entitlement, an affirmative demonstration of a desire to seek relief. To this end the judge ordered, on September 10, 1976, 9 that a list of all class members be assembled from "all records and compilations available" and submitted to the court, and that the clerk mail to each such person a notice and a "Back Pay Questionnaire and Claim" form, copies of both the notice and the form to be made available at Stevens' facilities. 10 The court affirmed its earlier ruling that North Carolina's three-year statute of limitations governed the defendant's back pay liability, and that back pay would thus not be allowed to anyone for the period preceding October 2, 1967, which was three years prior to the filing of the class action complaint. 11...

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