66 F.3d 164 (8th Cir. 1995), 94-2174, Ashley v. Boyle's Famous Corned Beef Co.

Docket Nº:94-2174.
Citation:66 F.3d 164
Party Name:Barbara H. ASHLEY, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. BOYLE'S FAMOUS CORNED BEEF COMPANY, Defendant-Appellee, Robert Boyle; David Nelson, Defendants.
Case Date:September 19, 1995
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
 
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Page 164

66 F.3d 164 (8th Cir. 1995)

Barbara H. ASHLEY, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

BOYLE'S FAMOUS CORNED BEEF COMPANY, Defendant-Appellee,

Robert Boyle; David Nelson, Defendants.

No. 94-2174.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

September 19, 1995

Submitted May 23, 1995.

Page 165

Arthur A. Benson, II, argued, Kansas City, MO, (Dianne E. Moritz, on the brief), for appellant.

Brian J. Finucane, argued, Kansas City, MO (Stephany J. Newport, on the brief), for appellee.

Before RICHARD S. ARNOLD, Chief Judge, and McMILLIAN, FAGG, BOWMAN, WOLLMAN, MAGILL, BEAM, LOKEN, HANSEN, MORRIS SHEPPARD ARNOLD and MURPHY, Circuit Judges, en banc.

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LOKEN, Circuit Judge.

Barbara Ashley began working for Boyle's Famous Corned Beef Company in 1985. When she was laid off in 1992, Ashley filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and then sued Boyle's under Title VII, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Equal Pay Act, and the Missouri Human Rights Act, alleging systematic gender and age discrimination in job assignment, pay, seniority, and employee benefits. The district court concluded that all of Ashley's claims stem from her initial assignment to a non-union position. It dismissed all her claims as barred by the doctrine of laches and ruled that some are also time-barred by the applicable statutes of limitations. A divided panel of this court affirmed, concluding that laches may bar a Title VII claim for unreasonable delay in filing the administrative charge, even though the charge was timely filed under the statute of limitations, just as laches may bar a claim for unreasonable delay between the filing of an administrative charge and the Title VII lawsuit. Ashley v. Boyle's Famous Corned Beef Co., 48 F.3d 1051 (8th Cir.1995).

Ashley then petitioned for rehearing, suggesting en banc consideration of the laches issue. She was supported by amicus briefs from the EEOC and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights under Law. We granted rehearing en banc. Concluding that most of Ashley's claims are not barred by the applicable statute of limitations or by laches, we reverse and remand.

I. Factual and Procedural Background.

Because we are reviewing the district court's grant of summary judgment, we will summarize the facts in the light most favorable to Ashley, the non-moving party.

In June 1985, Boyle's hired Ashley and other women on a part-time basis to prepare specialty products. Boyle's located this new operation on the second floor of its Kansas City corned beef plant, above the meat processing facility on the first floor. In 1986, Ashley and two other women began working full time in the second floor specialty products operation. However, Boyle's excluded this work from the collective bargaining agreement between Boyle's and the union representing first floor workers. Therefore, Boyle's unilaterally determined the second floor workers' rates of pay, seniority rights, and employee benefits.

The two groups of production employees were segregated by gender. All first floor production workers were male, were members of the union, and were covered by the collective bargaining agreement. All second floor workers were female; they were not union members and were not covered by the collective bargaining agreement. However, Boyle's daily work assignments blurred the sharp physical division between the specialty products operation and the rest of the plant. As product demands fluctuated, male union members would be sent to help the women on the second floor, and occasionally women were sent to help meet a peak demand on the first floor. But regardless of what work they performed, the male union members were paid at significantly higher rates under the collective bargaining agreement than the rates paid female employees on the second floor. Moreover, the women were usually laid off first and recalled last during periods of reduced demand.

Ashley and the other women periodically complained to Boyle's about the differences in pay and seniority rights. They asked to join the union to gain collective bargaining agreement benefits. In 1988 the union members voted to include the second floor workers in the collective bargaining unit, but Boyle's refused to agree and the union did not submit the issue to the National Labor Relations Board or to arbitration under the collective bargaining agreement. In response to the women's periodic complaints, Boyle's promised to equalize their wages and benefits, but nothing changed.

In June 1992, Boyle's laid off Ashley, the other two full-time second floor females, and four first floor males. All of the males were soon recalled, and the company hired new first floor male employees in late 1992 without recalling the three women. Ashley filed a charge with the EEOC in November 1992 and received a timely right-to-sue letter. In March 1993, Boyle's offered her a first floor

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production job and she accepted, becoming the first female hired into a union position. The next day, she filed this lawsuit.

Ashley has abandoned her initial age discrimination claim. The case now involves her claims of gender discrimination in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. Secs. 2000e et seq., the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. Secs. 206 et seq., and the Missouri Human Rights Act ("MHRA"), Mo.Rev.Stat. Secs. 213.101 et seq. She seeks legal and equitable remedies including compensatory and punitive damages, back pay, and injunctive relief. Although Ashley's complaint did not specify the precise conduct complained of, a pretrial pleading entitled "Designation of Discriminatory Incidents" clarified that she is challenging (i) her initial assignment to a non-union job and Boyle's alleged refusal to let her join the union; (ii) Boyle's on-going failure to pay her wages equal to those of the first floor male employees; and (iii) her alleged discriminatory lay-off in June 1992 and Boyle's subsequent failure to recall or rehire her.

The district court initially denied Boyle's post-discovery motion for summary judgment on statute of limitations and laches grounds, concluding that only Ashley's claim "involving employee...

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