607 F.2d 1276 (9th Cir. 1979), 77-2532, Ruffin v. Los Angeles County

Docket Nº:77-2532.
Citation:607 F.2d 1276
Party Name:24 Wage & Hour Cas. (BN 981, William D. RUFFIN et al., Appellants, v. COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES et al., Appellees. Sherman A. JONES et al., Appellants, v. COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES et al., Appellees. David L. ELLIS et al., Appellants, v. COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES et al., Appellees.
Case Date:November 07, 1979
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Page 1276

607 F.2d 1276 (9th Cir. 1979)

24 Wage & Hour Cas. (BN 981,

William D. RUFFIN et al., Appellants,


COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES et al., Appellees.

Sherman A. JONES et al., Appellants,


COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES et al., Appellees.

David L. ELLIS et al., Appellants,


COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES et al., Appellees.

No. 77-2532.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

November 7, 1979

Page 1277

John M. Sink, Santa Barbara, Cal., argued, for appellants.

Philip H. Hickok, Los Angeles, Cal., argued and on brief, for appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California.

Before CHAMBERS and ELY, Circuit Judges, and COPPLE, [*] District Judge.

ELY, Circuit Judge:

The appellants are 128 named corrections officers, all male, employed by the appellees, the Los Angeles County (California) Sheriff and the County of Los Angeles (hereinafter the "County"). They appeal the summary judgment dismissal of their employment discrimination claims against the County.

Page 1278

Specifically, the corrections officers claimed that employment practices of the County violated both Title VII of the Equal Employment Opportunity Act (42 U.S.C. § 2000e) and the Equal Pay Act (29 U.S.C. § 206(d)) because female deputy sheriffs who are assigned to work in County detention facilities are compensated at a higher rate of pay than are corrections officers, all of whom are male. Male corrections officers, so appellants contend, perform tasks involving essentially equal skill, effort, and responsibility as those performed by female deputies who work in the same facilities.

We affirm.


The undisputed facts are as follows:

At the time the suit was instituted, the County employed more than 5,400 deputy sheriffs, and 591 of those were female. On the total number of deputy sheriffs, 1,001 were assigned to the Custody Division of the Sheriff's Department, the division responsible for operating the twelve detention facilities operated by the County.

Of the 1,001 deputy sheriffs assigned to the Custody Division, 768 were males and 233 were female. Virtually all deputy sheriffs received their first assignment to the Custody Division after completion of their law enforcement academy training. This policy of assigning new deputies to work in the detention facilities prior to becoming eligible for service in any of the other seven divisions of the Sheriff's Department, according to the County, enabled the deputies to gain skills in personal interaction in a controlled environment. The County did not regard the initial Custody Division assignment strictly as a training program, but rather as a condition precedent to eligibility for later assignment elsewhere in the Sheriff's Department. Some deputies, however, worked in the Custody Division for their entire careers with the Sheriff's Department.

It is not disputed that male and female deputy sheriffs performed essentially the same work while assigned to the Custody Division and received equal wages, benefits, and promotions. Likewise, it is undisputed that the various jobs performed by deputy sheriffs, both male and female, at the detention facilities were assigned on the basis of experience and rank. Moreover, the corrections officers have conceded that the County does not Presently discriminate between male and female deputy sheriffs.

The position of corrections officer, held by all the appellants, is distinct from that of the position of deputy sheriff. Corrections officers were first hired in the early 1960s to fill an expressed need by the County for Man power in the County's jails. The newly created position enabled the County to transfer male deputy sheriffs, who otherwise would not have been available for transfer outside the Custody Division, to other work stations within the Sheriff's Department, such as to field work and patrol duty assignments.

Before the inception of the corrections officer program, only deputy sheriffs supervised prisoners in County detention facilities. During the time the County was actively hiring corrections officers, female deputy sheriffs were assigned to work primarily in the detention facilities and generally were not assigned to field work and patrol duty. As the County explains, it never hired female corrections officers because, under its since-abandoned policy of not assigning female deputies to field work and patrol duty, employing additional females as corrections officers would not have allowed any female deputy sheriffs to transfer out of the Custody Division.

The County was able to attract a sufficient number of qualified applicants to fill the newly created corrections officer positions by relaxing the qualifications required for deputy sheriffs. For example, the upper age limit for deputy sheriff applicants, male and female, was 35 years, while that for corrections officer applicants was 53 years. Likewise, the physical requirements established for corrections officers were less rigorous than those demanded of deputy sheriffs, male or female. Moreover, even to be eligible to apply for a deputy sheriff

Page 1279

position, a candidate first must have had completed a basic law enforcement training program approved by the Commission on Peace Officers Standards and Training. No comparable minimum training or experience was required of corrections officer applicants.

During that period of time when the County predominately limited female deputy sheriffs to Custody Division duties, male corrections officers and female deputies were given substantially similar post-employment instruction in a Sheriff's Academy training program. Male deputies, who were eligible for later assignment to other divisions, received additional training appropriate to field work and patrol duty.

Prior to the inception of this suit, the County altered its policy, and female deputies no longer were limited to Custody Division assignments. Accordingly, the post employment training of female deputies was increased to the same level as that of male deputy sheriffs. In contrast, corrections officers continue to receive different training for a shorter period of time, and they are yet employed exclusively in the County's detention facilities.

In addition to the unequal job qualifications and the differing post-employment training received by the two classes of employees, other differences, significant in our consideration, between corrections officers and deputy sheriffs are (1) the availability of deputies for transfer out of the Custody Division to other work stations in the Sheriff's Department, (2) the potential for advancement enjoyed by deputies and not by corrections officers, and (3) the greater authority vested by the County in respect to deputies which extends beyond the jailhouse gates.


After reviewing the pleadings of the parties and the affidavits submitted in connection with the summary judgment motions, the District Court concluded that the appellants had failed to prove that the County discriminated against them on the basis of sex either in their employment or in their compensation. Among its Conclusions of Law, the District Court held that appellants, in order to prove their claims of sex discrimination, could not compare themselves to the sub-class of female deputy sheriffs. Rather, the District Court concluded that appellants should have been compared to the entire class of deputy sheriffs. It is these Conclusions of Law that appellants contend were erroneous.

Very briefly stated, the argument of the appellants is that their pleadings and affidavits raised genuine issues of fact as to whether female deputy sheriffs and corrections officers were a class of County employees separate and apart from male deputy sheriffs. Appellants claim that their showing of the many similarities of function between female deputies and corrections officers and of the fact that, in the past, the post-employment training given to female deputies more closely approximated the training given to...

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