777 F.2d 1155 (6th Cir. 1985), 84-5761, Shore v. Federal Exp. Corp.

Docket Nº:84-5761.
Citation:777 F.2d 1155
Party Name:Sophia SHORE, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. FEDERAL EXPRESS CORP., Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:December 03, 1985
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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Page 1155

777 F.2d 1155 (6th Cir. 1985)

Sophia SHORE, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

FEDERAL EXPRESS CORP., Defendant-Appellant.

No. 84-5761.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

December 3, 1985

Argued Sept. 30, 1985.

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Louis F. Allen, Elizabeth A. McKanna, argued, Clifford P. Johnson, Federal Express Corp., Memphis, Tenn., for defendant-appellant.

Stephen L. Shields, Katherine Carlyle, argued, Memphis, Tenn., for plaintiff-appellee.

Before MARTIN and JONES, Circuit Judges, and CELEBREZZE, Senior Circuit Judge.

BOYCE F. MARTIN, Jr., Circuit Judge.

Federal Express Corporation appeals a judgment against it in a sex discrimination suit under Title VII of the United States Code, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 2000e et seq. The district court, 589 F.Supp. 662, awarded Sophia Shore $157,829 in damages, as well as attorneys' fees as authorized by 42 U.S.C. Sec. 2000e-5(k). Counsel have stipulated to the award of attorneys' fees.

Sophia Shore worked for Federal Express from November, 1975 until February, 1980. She was hired as a part-time secretary, and was promoted several times during her employment with the company. In 1976, she held a full-time position as secretary to the Director of Personnel, and in 1978 she was promoted to Personnel Policies and Procedures Coordinator under the Vice President of Personnel, Harry Keenan. In this position, Shore assisted Keenan in developing a Management by Objectives Program. Shore was promoted to the newly-created position of MBO coordinator in February of 1979, and in June of the same year was promoted to MBO Analyst. She continued to report to Keenan in both of these positions.

In November of 1979 Keenan left Federal Express, recommending James Bailey, another Federal Express employee, as his successor. Shore and Bailey had begun an intimate relationship five years before Shore had started work at Federal Express. Before 1979, their jobs at the company had not been related in any way.

Before accepting the position, Bailey advised Federal Express' Chief Executive Officer, Frederick Smith, that he had had an intimate relationship with Shore, but that it had ended and presented no problems. Shore disputes the accuracy of Bailey's statement about the status of their relationship. In any case, after Bailey assumed his new position the relationship did severely disrupt day-to-day operations in the Federal Express office. On February 1, 1980, after an argument concerning office staffing, Bailey fired Shore.

Shore requested a meeting with C.E.O. Smith in order to resolve the situation. The district court found that there were three conflicting versions of what occurred at that meeting, which took place on February 5, 1980. Both Bailey and Shore agreed that Shore was not allowed to explain her side of the story. After Smith related to Shore the reasons Bailey held his position and explained that the employee grievance procedure did not cover Shore's situation, Bailey and Smith testified that Shore volunteered to leave. Shore testified that she was removed from her job. All parties agreed that Smith promised Shore a comparable position in the company.

For the next four and one-half months, Shore received full pay and benefits from Federal Express, but performed no job duties other than searching for comparable employment within the company. Shore applied for one position, but was refused because she did not possess the stated minimum educational requirements. The company offered Shore two positions. The district court found that the first, Hazardous Materials Specialist, was not comparable to the MBO analyst position based on the testimony of the company's own personnel expert. The second position, Quality Assurance Auditor, required extensive travel, and the court below also found it was not comparable to the MBO position. Shore's refusal to accept this job resulted in her termination effective June 13, 1980.

The court below found this case to be a "classic case of disparate treatment based on sex." Shore v. Federal Express Corp., 589 F.Supp. 662, 667 (W.D.Tenn.1984). The court compared Shore's treatment to Bailey's,

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and found that Shore had made out a prima facie case of sex discrimination under the precepts of McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973). The burden then shifted to Federal Express to articulate a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for Shore's discharge. Texas Dep't. of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 254-55, 101 S.Ct. 1089, 1094, 67 L.Ed.2d 207 (1981). The court found that the defendant's proffered reason for Shore's dismissal was her failure to accept the Quality Assurance Auditor position. The burden then shifted back to the plaintiff to prove that defendant's reason for dismissal was pretextual under the Burdine analysis. The court below found that Shore met this burden by an "overwhelming preponderance" of the evidence, finding "Bailey's after-the-fact attempt to justify his removing plaintiff from her MBO position to be as uncredible as his testimony." Shore, 589 F.Supp. at 667.

Federal Express argues here that the district court's analysis blurred two discrete acts, Shore's transfer and her dismissal. Because of this incorrect legal analysis, they argue, the legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for Shore's initial transfer was ignored, and if considered would have produced another result. Apparently, Federal Express maintains that the legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for Shore's initial transfer was her "voluntary" resignation from her position. The district court found differently, concluding

the meeting between Bailey and Smith did not result in Shore's voluntary, uncoerced resignation [because] ... [s]he had already been removed from her MBO position by the Vice President of Objectives and Audits and the result of the meeting with Smith was a confirmation and ratification of that action.

Shore, 589 F.Supp. at 667.

The district court thus considered defendant's proffered legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for Shore's initial transfer from the MBO department. The purpose of the allocation of burdens of proof in a Title VII case "is to sharpen the inquiry into the elusive factual question of intentional discrimination." Burdine, 450 U.S. at 255, 101 S.Ct. at 1094 (emphasis added). The district court, after hearing all the evidence in the case, concluded that Federal Express had intentionally discriminated against Shore because of her sex. Shore, 589 F.Supp. at 667. Such factual determinations by the trial court in a Title VII case are to be evaluated under the "clearly erroneous" standard. Grubb v. Foote Memorial Hospital, 759 F.2d 546, 547 (6th Cir.1985).

While a more detailed and structured application of the burdens of proof in Title VII disparate treatment actions might have clarified the district court's analysis, the record is clear that Federal Express' reasons for Shore's transfer were considered by the district court. The court's analysis of Shore's final removal, which constitutes the basis for the finding of discrimination in this case, correctly allocates the burdens of proof. The record indicates that the plaintiff correctly bore the burden of proof imposed by McDonnell Douglas and Burdine, and the defendant's production of a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for its actions correctly shifted the burden back to...

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