904 F.2d 1269 (8th Cir. 1990), 89-1663, Chaffin v. Rheem Mfg. Co.

Docket Nº:89-1663.
Citation:904 F.2d 1269
Party Name:, 17 Fed.R.Serv.3d 244 Larry CHAFFIN, Appellant, v. RHEEM MANUFACTURING CO.; United Steelworkers of America (AFL-CIO and CLC); Local Union 7893 of the United Steelworkers of America (AFL-CIO and CLC), Appellees.
Case Date:June 12, 1990
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

Page 1269

904 F.2d 1269 (8th Cir. 1990)

, 17 Fed.R.Serv.3d 244

Larry CHAFFIN, Appellant,


RHEEM MANUFACTURING CO.; United Steelworkers of America

(AFL-CIO and CLC); Local Union 7893 of the United

Steelworkers of America (AFL-CIO and

CLC), Appellees.

No. 89-1663.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

June 12, 1990

Submitted Feb. 14, 1990.

Page 1270

Debra Armstrong-Wright, Fort Smith, Ark., for appellant.

Michael R. Jones, Mountainburg, Ark., for appellees.

Before BOWMAN, Circuit Judge, HEANEY, Senior Circuit Judge, and HUNTER, [*] District Judge.

BOWMAN, Circuit Judge.

Larry Chaffin brought this action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. Secs. 2000e to 2000e-17 (1982), against his employer, Rheem Manufacturing Company (Rheem). 1 Chaffin, who is black, claimed he was denied promotions, specifically a 1984 and a 1988 promotion, on the basis of his race. Chaffin also moved under Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for certification of a class of all black employees at Rheem who have been, or may in the future be, discriminated against by Rheem in its promotional decisions. The District Court 2 denied Chaffin's motion for class certification. After a two-day trial, the court found that (1) consideration of the 1984 promotion was barred by the 180-day limitation period contained in 42 U.S.C. Sec. 2000e-5(e) (1982); and (2) assuming Chaffin had established a prima facie case of racial discrimination regarding the 1988 promotion, Rheem presented legitimate nondiscriminatory reasons for its actions and Chaffin failed to demonstrate that these reasons were pretextual. On appeal, Chaffin argues that the District Court erred in (1) determining that consideration of the 1984 promotion was time-barred; (2) finding that Rheem's decision not to promote Chaffin in 1988 was not a violation of Title VII; and (3) denying his motion for class certification. We affirm.

Rheem manufactures residential heating and air conditioning equipment and employs approximately 1,800 to 2,000 people at its Fort Smith facility. Approximately 300 to 350 of the employees are salaried, while the remaining 1,500 to 1,700 employees are paid an hourly wage. Hourly employees are supervised by a group coordinator, a foreman, and a general foreman. Each group coordinator and foreman supervises one department, whereas the general foreman supervises several departments. At any given time, there are approximately 80 group coordinators, 54 foremen, and eight general foremen supervising Rheem's manufacturing operations.

Rheem hourly employees are governed by a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). All hourly positions are assigned a specific labor grade, ranging from grade one to grade eleven, and nonsupervisory employees are promoted to higher labor grades through a bidding process. Promotions are awarded among those who bid on a position on the basis of four factors: seniority, ability, job performance, and physical fitness. The CBA provides that, where all factors are relatively equal, seniority determines who receives the promotion.

Group coordinators are hourly employees governed by the CBA. The CBA does not provide a procedure for selecting individuals for group coordinator promotions. Evidence presented at trial indicated that when a group coordinator position becomes open, the foreman recommends one or two individuals for the job to the general foreman. The recommended candidates are reviewed by the general foreman and then the recommendation is passed up the supervisory chain to the superintendent, the production manager, and finally to the personnel

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office. Each person in the supervisory chain has the authority to review the recommended individual's qualifications and to suggest additional persons for consideration for the group coordinator position. Not surprisingly, the recommendation of the foreman, who has generally overseen the selected individual's job performance and who will have to work directly with the chosen group coordinator, is given considerable weight.

Except for two lay-offs due to reductions in the overall work force, Chaffin has been continuously employed at Rheem as an hourly employee for thirteen years. He has held eight positions in four departments, but has worked almost exclusively in the shear department on the second shift. Within the relevant time period, two promotions to group coordinator were made in Chaffin's department on the second shift: the first was the May 1984 promotion of John Jones, and the second was the April 1988 promotion of Tom Miner. Both these individuals are white.

Chaffin's initial charge of discrimination filed with the EEOC on August 20, 1987, alleged that he was passed over for promotion to group coordinator because of his race. 3 After receiving a letter granting him the right to sue, Chaffin commenced this action. During discovery, Chaffin was able to identify only one promotion within his department--the May 1984 promotion of Jones--for which he was qualified. After Rheem filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that evidence pertaining to the 1984 promotion was barred by the 180-day limitation period contained in 42 U.S.C. Sec. 2000e-5(e), Chaffin amended his complaint to assert that there were numerous promotions to group coordinator made outside of his department and that he was not considered for these positions because of his race. Prior to trial, Chaffin filed a second charge with the EEOC and amended his complaint again to contend that he was denied a promotion to group coordinator in April 1988 because of his race.


The timely filing of a charge of discrimination with the EEOC is a jurisdictional prerequisite to court action under Title VII. United Air Lines v. Evans, 431 U.S. 553, 555 n. 4, 97 S.Ct. 1885, 1887 n. 4, 52 L.Ed.2d 571 (1977). A complaint is timely when "filed within one hundred and eighty days after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred." 42 U.S.C. Sec. 2000e-5(e). Chaffin's initial EEOC charge, alleging that Rheem's 1984 promotion of Jones instead of Chaffin constituted racial discrimination, was filed more than three years after the promotion occurred. The District Court found that consideration of this claim was therefore barred. Chaffin concedes that the charge was filed outside the 180-day limitation period, but argues that his August 20, 1987, EEOC charge should be deemed timely, nonetheless, either because Rheem's alleged Title VII violation was continuing, or equitable considerations require that the limitation period be tolled. We disagree.

This Court has recognized that, in certain circumstances, where appellant...

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