745 F.2d 1373 (11th Cir. 1984), 82-3119, Crawford v. Western Elec. Co., Inc.

Docket Nº:82-3119.
Citation:745 F.2d 1373
Party Name:James E. CRAWFORD, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, Cross-Appellees, v. WESTERN ELECTRIC COMPANY, INC., et al., Defendants-Appellees, Cross-Appellants.
Case Date:November 05, 1984
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
 
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Page 1373

745 F.2d 1373 (11th Cir. 1984)

James E. CRAWFORD, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, Cross-Appellees,

v.

WESTERN ELECTRIC COMPANY, INC., et al.,

Defendants-Appellees, Cross-Appellants.

No. 82-3119.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

November 5, 1984

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Reese Marshall, Algia R. Cooper, Jacksonville, Fla., for plaintiffs-appellants, cross-appellees.

Guy O. Farmer, II, Gavin S. Appleby, Jacksonville, Fla., for defendants-appellees, cross-appellants.

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

Before FAY, VANCE and HATCHETT, Circuit Judges.

HATCHETT, Circuit Judge:

In this employment discrimination case, we review the district court's finding that appellee, Western Electric Company, Inc., rebutted appellants' prima facie cases under 42 U.S.C.A. Sec. 1981 (West 1981) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.A. Secs. 2000e-17 (West 1981). We also review the district court's holding that four appellants prevailed on their discrimination claims. We affirm in part and reverse in part.

Facts

On June 2, 1975, eight black installers, James E. Crawford, Royce B. Crump, Hubie C. Dupree, Larry Hodge, Fred J. Smith, Ernest L. Higginbotham, Lawrence I. Tunsil, and Frank McKinney, at the Jacksonville Installation Division of Western Electric Company, Inc. (Western Electric), filed a class action suit against their employer, Western Electric, and their union, The Communication Workers of America and its Local 3290. The installers alleged that Western Electric had violated their rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.A. Secs. 2000e-17 (West 1981) and 42 U.S.C.A. Sec. 1981 (West 1981).

Prior to trial, the class allegations were dismissed. The installers (appellants) thereafter amended their complaint to add A.C. Bartley, Roger Burton, Philip A. Cue, Saul L. Hodge, Wilbert J. Newsom, Wilbert A. Wingard, and Rodney B. Wright as plaintiffs.

At trial, the district court resolved the individual claims of appellants in favor of Western Electric. Following the district court's decision, appellants appealed to the former Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, 614 F.2d 1300. The Fifth Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded a number of issues for further consideration. See Crawford v. Western Electric, 614 F.2d 1300 (5th Cir.1980).

In Crawford, the court found that all appellants except Cue and McKinney had established prima facie cases under 42 U.S.C.A. Sec. 1981 with regard to the Index Review System. The appellants demonstrated

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that their advancement rates, within the limitation period, were significantly slower than the average white installer. The court also examined evidence of appellants' past lack of promotion and of racial language and conduct.

The court held that appellants Dupree, Smith, L. Hodge, and Tunsil established prima facie violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.A. Secs. 2000e-17, by showing that the index review process had a disparate impact on blacks. The court concluded that the district court had relied on erroneous factors in its implied finding that Western Electric rebutted the plaintiffs' prima facie cases. The court then remanded the case to the district court and instructed it to determine whether other evidence sufficiently rebutted appellants' showing.

In sum, the Crawford court conclusively ruled that thirteen of the original fifteen plaintiffs had established prima facie cases of discrimination under section 1981, and that four of the thirteen had similarly established a prima facie case of discrimination under Title VII. On remand, the district court found that Western Electric rebutted the prima facie cases of nine of the thirteen appellants by establishing legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for their failure to progress through the Index Review System at a faster pace.

The nine non-prevailing appellants, Bartley, Crawford, Dupree, Higginbotham, L. Hodge, S. Hodge, Newsom, Tunsil, and Wright, appeal. Western Electric appeals the district court's ruling that four of the section 1981 appellants, Burton, Crump, Smith, and Wingard prevailed.

Issues

We must decide three issues: (1) whether the district court erred when it found that Western Electric offered legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for not promoting appellants; (2) whether the district court erred in holding that Western Electric met its burden of showing that the Index Review program was justified by business necessity; and (3) whether the district court erred in finding that four appellants prevailed on their discrimination claims.

Discussion

In Crawford, the former Fifth Circuit found that all of the appellants in this appeal established prima facie violations of section 1981. As the district court correctly noted, the Crawford opinion, represents the "law of the case." See Morrow v. Dillard, 580 F.2d 1284, 1290 (5th Cir.1978). In resolving the issues in this case, the district court also correctly stated that Texas Department of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 101 S.Ct. 1089, 67 L.Ed.2d 207 (1981), controlled.

Burdine expressly delineated the burdens of proof and production in disparate treatment actions under Title VII. This court has held that the same trial procedure used in Title VII suits may be used in section 1981 disparate treatment cases. McWilliams v. Escambia County School Board, 658 F.2d 326 (5th Cir. Unit B 1981); Baldwin v. Birmingham Board of Education, 648 F.2d 950, 954-55 (5th Cir.1981) (section 1981 case). Furthermore, in McWilliams, this court expressly recognized that Burdine principles affect section 1981 employment discrimination cases to the same degree that they affect Title VII cases. McWilliams, 658 F.2d at 332.

In order to prove racially discriminatory treatment in violation of Title VII or section 1981, the plaintiff-employee bears the initial burden of establishing a prima facie case of racial discrimination. Burdine, 450 U.S. at 253, 101 S.Ct. at 1093; McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 1824, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973). By establishing a prima facie case, the employee raises the presumption that the employer rejected him or preferred the other applicant on racially discriminatory grounds. Burdine, 450 U.S. at 254, 101 S.Ct. at 1094. The former Fifth Circuit found that all appellants in this appeal established a prima facie case of racial discrimination. Thus, appellants

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gracefully shouldered their initial burden. See Crawford, 614 F.2d at 1318.

After a prima facie case is established, the burden of production shifts to the employer to rebut the presumption of discrimination. In carrying its burden of production, the employer must articulate in a reasonably specific manner the legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for rejecting the black or for preferring the white. Burdine, 450 U.S. at 255, 258, 101 S.Ct. at 1094, 1096. The employer, however, is not required to convince the district court that it was actually motivated by the reasons advanced. This is due to the fact that the employer bears only the burden of production, not the burden of persuasion. Burdine, 450 U.S. at 255, 101 S.Ct. at 1094. Additionally, the employer need not prove that the hired or promoted white was more qualified than the rejected black. Burdine, 450 U.S. at 259, 101 S.Ct. at 1096.

Having established a standard of proof in disparate treatment cases brought under both 42 U.S.C.A. Sec. 1981 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.A. Secs. 2000e-17, we now address each appellant's claim that the district court erred in finding that Western Electric offered legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for not promoting him. We also address Western Electric's claim that the district court erred in finding that Burton, Crump, Smith, and Wingard (appellees) prevailed on their discrimination claims.

I. Section 1981 Appellants and Appellees

Appellants (installers) contend that the trial court clearly erred in finding that Western Electric rebutted their prima facie cases of discrimination. The district court's factual finding that Western Electric met its burden of production on this issue may be overturned by this court only if clearly erroneous. Fed.R.Civ.P. 52. Under this standard, the district court's factual findings must be allowed to stand unless the reviewing court is left with a definite and firm impression that a mistake has been made. American National Bank of Jacksonville v. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., 710 F.2d 1528, 1533-34 (11th Cir.1983).

Our task, therefore, is to examine independently the merits of appellants' allegations. In doing so, we have studied the record to determine whether the district court's ultimate finding is based on requisite supporting evidence. East v. Romine, Inc., 518 F.2d 332, 339 (5th Cir.1975).

Background

According to procedures at Western Electric, appellants could have been promoted during any one of Western Electric's index reviews, whether a vacancy existed or not. Index reviews for promotions were conducted every six months, in June and December. It was during these index reviews that promotional decisions were made. Only the installers' work performance during the review period in question served as a basis for an advanced rating or the denial of an advanced rating.

On April 8, 1980, the former Fifth Circuit held that the section 1981 appellants, in presenting their employment discrimination cases against Western Electric, established prima facie violations under 42 U.S.C.A. Sec. 1981 (West 1981). We accept this finding as the law of the case, and it will not be relitigated before this court...

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