Allison v. Citgo Petroleum Corp., 96-30489

Decision Date18 August 1998
Docket NumberNo. 96-30489,96-30489
Citation151 F.3d 402
Parties73 Empl. Prac. Dec. P 45,426 James E. ALLISON; Ray Anderson; Joanne Andrepont; Raymond Artis; Joseph Austin; Charles Avery; Ronald Ballou; Leroy Ballou; Daniel Barron; Arnold Batiste; Reginald Bilbo; David L. Blaney; Alex Broussard; Calvin Broussard; Northern Brown; Sandra Brown; Solomon Butler; Jesse L. Carmen; Charles Carrier; Junius Carter; Donald Ceasar; Audrey T. Celestine; Anthony Champage; Reid Champman; Jaqueline Clemons; Leonard Cole; Glenneth Coleman; Lester Coleman; Cleveland J. Collins; Larry A. Combest; Lynette Cormier; George Darbonne; Patricia Darbonne; Xavier Darbonne; Willie DeJean; Louis A. Dudley; Joseph Dugar; Loney M. Dougar; Charles Ellis; Peter Evans; Clyde Felix; Charles Fobb, Jr., Clinton Fobbs, Jr., Gilbert Foote; Howard Dee Foreman; Velma M. Gallien; Ray A. Garland; McArthur Gilliam; Paul Goodwin; Marion R. Greene; Shelton Guillory; Wilton Guillory; Willie Ray Hamilton; Donald Harris; Edwina M. Harris; Silver Ray Harris; Ray Harris; Donald Harrison; Henry G. Hawkins; Helen G. Henry; Willie Irving; Donald D. Jackson; Jack Johnson; Samuel Johnson; Lawrence Jones; Edward Jordan; Horace J. Lambert; Angel LeBlanc; Albert Leday, Jr.; Clifford Leday; Arthur K. Lee; Earl J. Lemell; Joseph Lemell, Jr.; Wilbert J. Lewis; Harold J. Lockett; Kathleen V. Manueal; Paul D. Matthews; Aubrey Matthews; Charlet L. McCain; Louis E. Metoyer; Wesley J. Monroe; Melvin Moreau; Mark A. Mott; Willie Mouton; Joseph Larry Nelson; Moses Nelson; Herbert L. Oliver; Edward Oliver; Mark H. Pappion; Cornelius Pappion; Frederick Perrodin; Joseph Perron, Jr.; August Pete; Darrell Pete; Gussie Pitre; Patricia Pitre; George Polk, Jr; Linton Poullard, Jr.; Joseph Prudhomme; Larry Prudhomme, Jr.; Harvey C. Pullard; Charles W. Rawl; Frederick Rideaux; Joseph A. Riley; Virginia Riley; Nancy Ryan; Nathaniel H. Sapp; Louis Semien, Jr.; Chester Senegal; Joseph Senien, Jr.; Jessie L. Shaw; Howard W. Sherman; Wanda F. Smith; George Stenson; Gerald Sterling; Richard Sterling; Charles A.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit

Robert L. Wiggins, Jr., Rocco Calamusa, Jr., Rebecca J. Anthony, Robert F. Childs, Jr., Gordon, Silberman, Wiggins and Childs, Birmingham, AL, Stuart M. Nelkin, Nelkin & Nelkin, Houston, TX, Linda M. Dardarian, Roberta L. Steele, Saperstein, Goldstein, Dembhak & Baller, Oakland, CA, for Plaintiffs-Appellants, and Intervenors Plaintiffs-Appellants.

William B. Swift, Lake Charles, LA, Walter W. Christy, Leslie Weill Ehret, Ellen Shirer, The Kullman Firm, New Orleans, LA, for Defendant-Appellee.

Richard T. Seymour, Barbara R. Arnwine, Teresa Anne Ferrante, Thomas J. Henderson, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Washington, DC, Bernard Persky, Peter E. Zinman, Goodkind, Labaton, Rudoff & Sucharow, New York City, for Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Amicus Curiae.

Robert John Gregory, EEOC, Washington, DC, for Equal Employment Opportunity Com'n, Amicus Curiae.

Ann Elizabeth Reesman, McGuiness & Williams, Washington, DC, for Equal Employment Advisory Council, Amicus Curiae.

James M. Finberg, Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Barnstein, San Francisco, CA, for Nat. Employment Lawyers Assoc., Amicus Curiae.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana.

Before JOLLY, SMITH and DENNIS, Circuit Judges.

E. GRADY JOLLY, Circuit Judge: *

This interlocutory appeal presents the question whether the district court properly refused to certify a class action challenging employment practices by the Citgo Petroleum Corporation ("Citgo") under Title VII (as amended in 1991) and the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. § 1981. The plaintiffs, Allison and over 130 other named plaintiffs and intervenors, filed suit on behalf of black employees and applicants for employment alleging that Citgo engaged in class-wide racial discrimination with respect to general hiring, promotion, compensation, and training policies at its manufacturing facilities in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The plaintiffs challenged these policies under disparate impact and systemic disparate treatment theories of discrimination. Seeking injunctive, declaratory, and monetary relief, the plaintiffs moved for class certification under Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which Citgo opposed. The district court denied the motion. On appeal, the plaintiffs contend that the district court's denial of class certification was an abuse of discretion. Before the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which for the first time provided plaintiffs with a right to compensatory and punitive damages as well as a jury trial (each demanded here), aspects of this case clearly would have qualified for class certification. As we shall explain, however, the plaintiffs' claims for money damages and the constitutional right of both parties to a jury trial, with all its substantive rights and procedural complications, ultimately render this case unsuitable for class certification under Rule 23. We therefore affirm and hold that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying class certification.


This race discrimination case involves a potentially huge and wide-ranging class action lawsuit concerning employment practices at Citgo's Lake Charles manufacturing complex. Specifically, the plaintiffs identified the following employment practices as resulting in unlawful race discrimination: (1) failure to post or announce job vacancies; (2) use of an informal word-of-mouth announcement process for filling job vacancies; (3) use of racially biased tests to evaluate candidates for hire or promotion; and (4) use of a subjective decision-making process by a predominantly white supervisory staff in reviewing applicants for hire and employees for promotion. The plaintiffs challenged each of these policies under both the disparate impact and systemic disparate treatment theories of Title VII.

In September 1993, the plaintiffs filed a motion for the certification of a class estimated to contain more than 1000 potential members. The class was identified as "[a]ll African-American employees and applicants of Citgo Petroleum Corporation (Citgo) from April 11, 1979 until the present." Its members are current and former employees and unsuccessful applicants for employment in "hourly" positions at Citgo's Lake Charles complex. They are spread across two separate facilities. They are represented by six different unions, come from five different skill groups, and work in seven different functional areas at the complex. Nevertheless, the plaintiffs maintain that a class action is appropriate because they are challenging general hiring, training, and promotional policies applied uniformly throughout the complex.

To remedy the alleged discrimination, the plaintiffs seek every available form of injunctive, declaratory, and monetary relief. In terms of affirmative injunctive relief, the plaintiffs seek restructuring of offending policies, instatement into existing jobs, and retroactive seniority and benefits. As for monetary relief traditionally available under Title VII, the plaintiffs request back pay, front pay, pre-judgment interest, and attorneys' fees. Furthermore, invoking the provisions added to Title VII by the Civil Rights Act of 1991, the plaintiffs seek compensatory and punitive damages to the maximum amount permissible under the law. Finally, the plaintiffs demand a jury trial on their claims of intentional discrimination, to which they are now also entitled under the 1991 amendments.

The district court referred the plaintiffs' motion for class certification to a magistrate judge, who conducted an evidentiary hearing and subsequently entered a report and recommendation denying class certification. The magistrate judge determined that, although the proposed class met the requirements of Rule 23(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, it could not be certified under any of the alternatives provided in 23(b). The plaintiffs sought certification primarily under subsection (b)(2), but the magistrate judge found certification under (b)(2) inappropriate because money damages were the "predominant" form of relief sought. Focusing on the individualized nature of the damages claims and the consequent need for significant individualized proof, he reasoned that they were not sufficiently incidental to the injunctive relief to warrant class certification under 23(b)(2). The magistrate judge also considered class certification under Rule 23(b)(3), but found that the need for individualized damages determinations caused individual issues to predominate over common ones and that a class action would not be a superior method for fair and efficient adjudication of the controversy.

Finally, the magistrate judge contemplated bifurcating the trial into liability and damages stages and certifying a class on only the claims for injunctive relief. He expressed concern, however, over Seventh Amendment complications arising out of bifurcated proceedings with multiple juries and the difficulty in separating liability and damages issues in discrimination cases. The magistrate judge suggested that the proper use of consolidation under Rule 42 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure would permit the court to avoid the problems presented by a class action in this case while still achieving some degree of efficiency.

The district court adopted the report and recommendation in its...

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