Beaird v. Seagate Technology, Inc., Nos. 96-6087

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore TACHA and LUCERO; LUCERO; TACHA
Citation145 F.3d 1159
Decision Date28 May 1998
Docket NumberNos. 96-6087,96-6145
Parties76 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. (BNA) 1865, 66 USLW 2780 Maudie BEAIRD, Mildred Bobo, Jerlene Bush, Rosa Clark, William Henson, Claudia Johnson, Margaret Jones, Ruth Noran, Plaintiffs-Appellants, and Marjie Ferguson, Leonard Flannery, Thomas Fung, Gerald Lecompte, Shirley McCartney, Dianna G. Woods, Plaintiffs, v. SEAGATE TECHNOLOGY, INC., Defendant-Appellee.

Page 1159

145 F.3d 1159
76 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. (BNA) 1865, 66 USLW 2780
Maudie BEAIRD, Mildred Bobo, Jerlene Bush, Rosa Clark,
William Henson, Claudia Johnson, Margaret Jones,
Ruth Noran, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
and
Marjie Ferguson, Leonard Flannery, Thomas Fung, Gerald
Lecompte, Shirley McCartney, Dianna G. Woods, Plaintiffs,
v.
SEAGATE TECHNOLOGY, INC., Defendant-Appellee.
Nos. 96-6087, 96-6145.
United States Court of Appeals,
Tenth Circuit.
May 28, 1998.

Page 1162

Mark Hammons, Hammons & Associates, Oklahoma City, OK, for Plaintiffs-Appellants.

Gary C. Pierson (Tony G. Puckett and Mark D. Spencer with him on briefs), Lytle Soule & Curlee, Oklahoma City, OK, for Defendant-Appellee.

Before TACHA and LUCERO, Circuit Judges and DANIEL *, District Judge.

LUCERO, Circuit Judge.

This case arises from a reduction in force ("RIF") instituted in 1993 by defendant Seagate Technology, Inc., a manufacturer of computer equipment. As a result of the RIF, more than 200 employees at Seagate's Oklahoma City facility were laid off. Many of the laid-off employees had worked at the Oklahoma City facility for more than a decade. Some of the plaintiffs in this case had more than twenty years seniority when they were let go. Twenty-seven former employees sued Seagate for violation of various federal and state antidiscrimination laws. Some of the plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed their claims, and the district court granted Seagate summary judgment as to most of the others. The judgment became final when the remaining plaintiffs settled and the district court entered a final judgment. Eight plaintiffs remain parties to this appeal.

Plaintiffs raise two distinct objections to summary judgment. First, they argue that it was reversible error to allow Seagate to submit a reply brief with additional materials after plaintiffs had responded to Seagate's original summary judgment motion, but not to permit plaintiffs to file a surreply controverting the arguments and materials contained in the reply. Second, they contend that questions of material fact remain with respect to each plaintiff and that summary judgment was thus improper.

I

In 1993, Seagate decided to reorganize its Oklahoma City facility and reduce the number of employees working there. According to the RIF procedures described in Seagate's employee handbook, "[i]n determining which employees will be subject to a reduction in force, the Company will take into account, among other things, operational requirements, performance and potential. Where these factors are equal, length of service will be taken into account." See Appellants' App. at 228.

In an affidavit submitted to the district court, Seagate's Director of Human Services, Lowell Yandell, elaborated on this scheme. According to Yandell, operational requirements dictated the total number of employees to be cut within each job code. Thereafter, employee performance determined which employees would number in the final lay-off total. Where one employee's performance ranking was equal to another's, length of service was used as a tiebreaker. If two employees had identical seniority, the employee born on the earliest day of the month was selected first.

For purposes of the RIF, Seagate measured performance in two ways. Employees who had recently been subject to formal disciplinary proceedings were chosen for lay-off before any other employee within their

Page 1163

job code. 1 If there were no such documented disciplinary actions, Seagate stated that it considered the employee's most recent written performance evaluation rating, which was measured on a scale of one to five. For all plaintiffs, the most recent written performance evaluations were compiled in a "CHAPA" report, dated July 26, 1993, that also lists the date of their final evaluation. In some cases, employees were evaluated on a zero-to-500 point scale that was converted into a performance evaluation corresponding to the CHAPA one-to-five scale.

Plaintiffs alleged principally that the RIF, as applied to them, was a pretext for illegal discrimination. Seagate moved for summary judgment, asserting that all lay-off decisions were made in strict accordance with the RIF guidelines outlined above. In response, plaintiffs disputed that contention by introducing a Seagate evaluation document as their Exhibit 53. Plaintiffs argued that this document showed they should have been retained in place of employees who were not laid off; that the RIF criteria, including potential and disciplinary history, were used selectively; and that strict seniority was not applied.

The district court then allowed Seagate to file a reply brief, in which it explained the preliminary nature of Exhibit 53 and reiterated that the RIF criteria had been consistently applied. Plaintiffs moved to strike Seagate's reply brief or, in the alternative, to file a surreply. The district court denied both motions. Thereafter, the district court granted Seagate summary judgment with respect to all of the appellants. As to appellants Clark, Bush, Bobo and Henson, the district court concluded that a prima facie case of discrimination had not been made. With respect to all eight appellants, it concluded that Seagate's RIF was a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for termination and that appellants had failed to carry their burden of presenting facts that would allow a factfinder to conclude that the RIF was applied in a pretextual manner. Eight plaintiffs timely appealed.

II

Appellants first argue that the district court committed reversible error in allowing Seagate to file a reply after plaintiffs responded to Seagate's motion for summary judgment, while denying plaintiffs the opportunity to file a surreply. The substance of Seagate's reply is in three parts: (1) the existence of performance point totals inconsistent with the performance ratings used in the RIF had no effect on plaintiffs' selection for the RIF; (2) plaintiffs' previous attack on the use of potential as a criterion for RIF consideration now precludes assertions that the RIF did not properly consider potential; and (3) the voluntary dismissal of discrimination claims by many of the plaintiffs suggests the remaining plaintiffs likewise have no valid claims.

The parties disagree as to what standard of review we should apply to the district court's decision to allow a reply brief. Appellants argue that we should review the district courts's decision de novo. They contend that the district court's error is jurisdictional and, thus, requires reversal regardless of any showing of prejudice. Additionally, appellants argue that some of their number were in fact prejudiced by the district court's reliance on new material to which they had no opportunity to respond. Seagate contends that we should review the district court's decision only for an abuse of discretion. Seagate argues that the district court acted within its discretion in allowing the company to file a reply brief without allowing plaintiffs a surreply and, further, that no unfair prejudice occurred as a result of the district court's consideration of Seagate's reply.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 implicitly requires the district court to allow the nonmoving party an opportunity to respond before summary judgment is entered against it. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c) ("The motion shall be served at least 10 days before the time fixed for the hearing. The adverse

Page 1164

party prior to the day of hearing may serve opposing affidavits."); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 326, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986) ("[D]istrict courts are widely acknowledged to possess the power to enter summary judgments sua sponte, so long as the losing party was on notice that she had to come forward with all of her evidence."). In our circuit, "[i]t is settled law that noncompliance with the time provisions of Rule 56(c) deprives the court of authority to grant the motion for summary judgment unless the opposing party has waived this requirement." Osbakken v. Venable, 931 F.2d 36, 37 (10th Cir.1991). Here, appellants analogize Seagate's reply to an initial summary judgment motion, and suggest that the district court had no authority to grant summary judgment without allowing plaintiffs the opportunity to respond to the new materials.

Rule 56 neither authorizes nor forbids a reply brief by the party moving for summary judgment. In the absence of a specific federal rule, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permit federal judges to regulate practice "in any manner consistent with federal law, rules adopted under 28 U.S.C. §§ 2072 and 2075, and local rules of the district." See Fed.R.Civ.P. 83(b). Under the local rules of the Western District of Oklahoma, authorized under Fed.R.Civ.P. 83(a), "[r]eply ... briefs are not encouraged and may be filed only upon application and leave of Court." LR7.1(g) (1997). In this case, the district court's actions are properly viewed as stemming from the authority granted by Rule 83.

Although there is no clear statutory prescription as to the standard of appellate review, the permissive language of Local Rule 7.1(g) and of both provisions of Federal Rule 83 implies that we must give the district court appropriate deference on appeal. See Pierce v. Underwood, 487 U.S. 552, 558-59, 108 S.Ct. 2541, 101 L.Ed.2d 490 (1988). Moreover, "[i]t is especially common for issues involving what can broadly be labeled 'supervision of litigation' ... to be given abuse-of-discretion review." Id. at 558 n. 1. The question presented here, that of determining whether the district court may consider evidence and issues raised by the party moving for summary judgment in a reply brief without allowing the opposing party to respond, fits best within this "supervision of litigation" framework. Consequently, we review the trial court's managing its docket and supervising the parties in this respect for an abuse of discretion only. Cf. Walter v. Morton, 33 F.3d 1240,...

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339 practice notes
  • Gamez v. Country Cottage Care & Rehab., No. CIV. 04-719 JB/WCS.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • February 28, 2005
    ...evidence that the plaintiff was treated less favorably than younger employees during the RIF." Beaird v. Seagate Technology, Inc., 145 F.3d 1159, 1165 (10th Cir.1998)(quotation and citations omitted). These cases may be analogized to Gamez' situation, in which management allegedly discrimin......
  • Gerald v. Locksley, No. CIV 10–0721 JB/LFG.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • May 6, 2011
    ...484, 490 (10th Cir.2008)(citing Zipes v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 455 U.S. at 393, 102 S.Ct. 1127; Beaird v. Seagate Tech., Inc., 145 F.3d 1159, 1174–75 (10th Cir.1998)). The Tenth Circuit treats a plaintiff's failure to timely exhaust administrative remedies not “as a jurisdictional iss......
  • Gerald v. Locksley, No. CIV 10-0721 JB/LFG
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of New Mexico
    • August 1, 2011
    ...Corp., 288 F. App'x 484, 490 (10th Cir. 2008)(citing Zipes v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 455 U.S. at 393; Beaird v. Seagate Tech., Inc., 145 F.3d 1159, 1174-75 (10th Cir. 1998)). The Tenth Circuit treats a plaintiff's failure to timely exhaust administrative remedies not "as a jurisdiction......
  • Serna v. Webster, CV 17-20 JB/WPL
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • May 4, 2017
    ...7.4(b). The decision to grant the filing of a surreply is within the Court's sound discretion. Beaird v. Seagate Tech., Inc., 145 F.3d 1159, 1164 (10th Cir. 1998). Leave to file a surreply is appropriate when the Court relies on new materials or new arguments in a reply brief. See id. at 11......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
339 cases
  • Gamez v. Country Cottage Care & Rehab., No. CIV. 04-719 JB/WCS.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • February 28, 2005
    ...evidence that the plaintiff was treated less favorably than younger employees during the RIF." Beaird v. Seagate Technology, Inc., 145 F.3d 1159, 1165 (10th Cir.1998)(quotation and citations omitted). These cases may be analogized to Gamez' situation, in which management allegedly discrimin......
  • Gerald v. Locksley, No. CIV 10–0721 JB/LFG.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • May 6, 2011
    ...484, 490 (10th Cir.2008)(citing Zipes v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 455 U.S. at 393, 102 S.Ct. 1127; Beaird v. Seagate Tech., Inc., 145 F.3d 1159, 1174–75 (10th Cir.1998)). The Tenth Circuit treats a plaintiff's failure to timely exhaust administrative remedies not “as a jurisdictional iss......
  • Gerald v. Locksley, No. CIV 10-0721 JB/LFG
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of New Mexico
    • August 1, 2011
    ...Corp., 288 F. App'x 484, 490 (10th Cir. 2008)(citing Zipes v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 455 U.S. at 393; Beaird v. Seagate Tech., Inc., 145 F.3d 1159, 1174-75 (10th Cir. 1998)). The Tenth Circuit treats a plaintiff's failure to timely exhaust administrative remedies not "as a jurisdiction......
  • Serna v. Webster, CV 17-20 JB/WPL
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • May 4, 2017
    ...7.4(b). The decision to grant the filing of a surreply is within the Court's sound discretion. Beaird v. Seagate Tech., Inc., 145 F.3d 1159, 1164 (10th Cir. 1998). Leave to file a surreply is appropriate when the Court relies on new materials or new arguments in a reply brief. See id. at 11......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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