824 F.Supp. 847 (D.Minn. 1993), Civ. 5-88-163, Jenson v. Eveleth Taconite Co.

Docket Nº:Civ. 5-88-163
Citation:824 F.Supp. 847
Party Name:Jenson v. Eveleth Taconite Co.
Case Date:May 14, 1993
Court:United States District Courts, 8th Circuit, District of Minnesota
 
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824 F.Supp. 847 (D.Minn. 1993)

Lois E. JENSON, et al., Plaintiffs,

v.

EVELETH TACONITE COMPANY, et al., Defendants.

Civ. No. 5-88-163.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota, Third Division.

May 14, 1993

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Paul Sprenger and Jean Boler, Sprenger & Lang, Minneapolis, MN, for plaintiffs.

Mary Stumo and David Goldstein, Faegre & Benson, Minneapolis, MN, for defendants Eveleth Taconite Co., Eveleth Expansion Co., Oglebay Norton Co. and Oglebay Norton Taconite Co., d/b/a Eveleth Mines.

Scott Higbee, Peterson, Engberg & Peterson, Minneapolis, MN, for defendant U.S. Workers of America, Local 6860.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

KYLE, District Judge.

Introduction

This matter came on for trial before the undersigned on December 21-23 and 28-30, 1992 and February 2, 1993. The Plaintiff

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Class, 1 consisting of women who applied for employment or were employed in hourly positions at a taconite mining facility owned and operated by defendants Eveleth Taconite Company, Eveleth Expansion Company, Oglebay Norton Company, and Oglebay Norton Taconite Company (collectively, "Eveleth Mines"), 2 alleged that Eveleth Mines violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2 (Title VII), and the Minnesota Human Rights Act, Minn.Stat. § 363.03, subd. 1(2) (1988) ("MHRA"), by discriminating against women on the basis of their sex, including engaging in acts of sexual harassment. 3

On motion of the Plaintiff Class, the litigation was bifurcated into two phases: (1) a "liability" phase to determine whether the defendants violated Title VII and/or MHRA; and if liability was established, (2) a "recovery" phase to determine the eligibility of individual class members for compensatory relief. Craik v. Minnesota State Univ. Bd., 731 F.2d 465, 470 (8th Cir.1984).

PLAINTIFFS' ALLEGATIONS

The Plaintiff Class (hereinafter, "Plaintiffs") allege that Eveleth Mines has engaged in a pattern of discriminatory practices, including discrimination in hiring, and in terms and conditions of employment such as job assignment, promotion, compensation, discipline and training. Plaintiffs also allege sexual discrimination based upon sexual harassment--the existence of a work environment that is hostile to women.

DEFENDANTS' ALLEGATIONS

Eveleth Mines and the Union deny the Plaintiffs' claims and state that hiring practices at Eveleth Mines, as well as the terms and conditions of employment, are conducted in a non-discriminatory manner. Eveleth Mines further alleges that it has had a practice of immediately investigating and correcting sexual harassment when it knows or reasonably should know of its existence, and that it has adhered to that practice at all relevant times.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Based upon the admissible evidence 4 adduced at trial 5 and upon all the files, records and proceedings herein, as well as the arguments of counsel, the court issues the following Memorandum Opinion, which shall constitute the Court's Findings of Fact and Conclusions of law, in accordance with Fed.R.Civ.P. 52(a). 6

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I. Procedural Posture

As stated above, this matter was brought pursuant to Title VII and MHRA. Jurisdiction and venue are proper in this Court.

A. The Named Plaintiffs

Named plaintiff Lois Jenson began her employment with Eveleth Mines on March 24, 1975. As of the 1992/1993 proceedings, Jenson was on medical leave from Eveleth Mines.

Named plaintiff Patricia Kosmach began her employment with Eveleth Mines on January 21, 1976. As of the 1992/1993 proceedings, Kosmach, who suffers from arterial lateral sclerosis was no longer working at Eveleth Mines.

Named plaintiff Kathleen O'Brien Anderson began her employment with Eveleth Mines on July 6, 1976. As of the 1992/1993 proceedings, Anderson was on medical leave from Eveleth Mines.

Jenson filed a charge of sex discrimination with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights ("MDHR") on October 26, 1984. The charge was also filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). On March 7, 1985, the MDHR issued a memorandum stating that there was probable cause to credit Jenson's allegation of unfair discriminatory practice by Eveleth Mines, in violation of MHRA. 7 Jenson received a Right to Sue Notice from the EEOC on August 4, 1988.

Kosmach filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC on April 13, 1988. Kosmach's charge of discrimination included allegations of class-wide discrimination against female employees and applicants. Kosmach received a Right to Sue Notice from the EEOC on August 4, 1988.

Anderson filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC on November 11, 1988. Anderson received a Right to Sue Notice from the EEOC on December 8, 1988.

The named plaintiffs are employees within the definition of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(f), and Minn.Stat. § 363.01, subd. 16.

B. The Defendants

Defendants Eveleth Taconite Company ("ETCO") and Eveleth Expansion Company ("EXCO") do business under the name Eveleth Mines. Eveleth Mines' labor force is employed by defendant Oglebay Norton Taconite Company ("ONTAC"), a subsidiary of defendant Oglebay Norton Company ("ONCO"), which manages the operation for Eveleth Mines.

The defendant Union is a labor organization representing all of Eveleth Mines' hourly employees.

Eveleth Mines is an employer within the definition of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(b), and Minn.Stat. § 363.01, subd. 17.

C. The Litigation

Jenson and Kosmach filed their class action Complaint on August 15, 1988. On March 14, 1989, they filed an Amended Complaint, adding Anderson as a named plaintiff and joining the Union as a defendant.

On December 9, 1991, the named plaintiffs filed a Motion to Amend their Amended Complaint to add claims for compensatory and punitive damages. This Motion was withdrawn on February 3, 1992; it has not been renewed.

A hearing on the named plaintiffs' Motion for Class Certification and a Preliminary Injunction was held in May and June of 1991. On December 16, 1991, this Court 8 certified 9 the plaintiff class to consist of:

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all women who have applied for, or have been employed in hourly positions at Eveleth Mines at any time since December 30, 1983, and who have been, are being, or as the result of the operation of current practices, will be discriminated against with regard to the terms and conditions of their employment because of their sex.

139 F.R.D. at 667. The Court denied the Plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction. Id.

II. The Work Place

Eveleth Mines mines and processes crude taconite ore into pellets that are sixty-five percent (65%) iron. These pellets are then sold for purposes of being processed into pig iron and, ultimately, steel.

Eveleth Mines' mining operations are divided between two open pit mines covering 8,600 acres (the "Thunderbird Mine"). Ore from the Thunderbird Mine is uncovered, loaded into trucks and then brought to the "primary crusher," where it is reduced in size. The ore is then transported, by rail, approximately ten miles to Eveleth Mines' processing facility (the "Fairlane Plant"), where it is converted to taconite pellets. The Thunderbird Mine also has a warehouse facility which serves the mining operation.

The Fairlane Plant consists of several large buildings spread out over a large area. When the ore arrives at the Fairlane Plant, it first goes to the "fine crusher" where it is reduced to gravel-sized pieces. Next, the crushed ore proceeds to the "fine ore surge," where it is stored until processing. Beneath the fine ore surge are rows of conveyor belts and hoppers known as "Mexican feeders." 10 The Mexican feeders route the crushed ore to the "concentrator." The area around the Mexican feeders is known as "Mexico."

In the concentrator, the ore is mixed with water and ground in mills until it reaches the consistency of sand. This powder is then sent over revolving drums containing magnets which capture the iron-bearing grains of ore, thereby separating them from waste rock. 11 The concentrate proceeds to the "pellet plant," where it is rolled in revolving drums and sprayed with a bonding agent to produce pellets approximately one-half inch in diameter. The pellets are then fire-hardened in a kiln. After cooling, the pellets are loaded for rail shipment to Duluth and other destinations.

Quality control is an important component of the production process. To that end, pellets are routinely sampled and analyzed at the Fairlane Plant's laboratory to assure their quality.

During periods relevant to this action, the named plaintiffs and Plaintiffs worked at both the Thunderbird Mine and Fairlane Plant, although the majority of Plaintiffs worked at the Fairlane Plant. Plaintiffs worked in all areas of the Fairlane Plant.

Eveleth Mines's work force consists of both hourly and salaried employees. All of the hourly employees are employed in production-related jobs and work at both the Thunderbird Mine and the Fairlane Plant. The hourly workers are divided into two main areas: (1) Maintenance; and (2) Operations. Maintenance workers are required to have craft or technical training, and work as electricians, mechanics, etc. Operations workers are not required to have any special training or education. 12

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Job assignments and pay are controlled by the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA"). 13 (Plfs' Exh...

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