Brinkley-Obu v. Hughes Training, Inc., BRINKLEY-OB

Citation36 F.3d 336
Decision Date26 September 1994
Docket Number93-1898,P,BRINKLEY-OB,Nos. 93-1760,s. 93-1760
Parties65 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. (BNA) 1840, 128 Lab.Cas. P 33,147, 2 Wage & Hour Cas.2d (BNA) 650 Sharon D.laintiff-Appellee, v. HUGHES TRAINING, INCORPORATED, Defendant-Appellant. Sharon D.laintiff-Appellant, v. HUGHES TRAINING, INCORPORATED, Defendant-Appellee.
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)

ARGUED: Christine Hope Perdue, Hunton & Williams, Fairfax, VA, for appellant. James Harold Heller, Kator, Scott & Heller, Washington, DC, for appellee. ON BRIEF: David A. Walsh, Hunton & Williams, Fairfax, VA, for appellant. Philip J. Simon, Kator, Scott & Heller, Washington, DC, for appellee.

Before MURNAGHAN and NIEMEYER, Circuit Judges, and YOUNG, Senior United States District Judge for the District of Maryland, sitting by designation.

Affirmed by published opinion. Judge MURNAGHAN wrote the opinion, in which Judge NIEMEYER and Senior Judge YOUNG joined.


MURNAGHAN, Circuit Judge:

Sharon Brinkley-Obu brought Equal Pay Act and Title VII claims against her employer, Hughes Training Inc. (HTI) in October 1992. On April 21, 1993, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Brinkley-Obu finding that HTI had committed a non-willful violation of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, 29 U.S.C. Sec. 206(d) (1988), and awarded Brinkley-Obu $27,639.00 in back pay. The jury also found that HTI had violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 2000e et seq., with respect to one of Brinkley-Obu's former co-workers, William Turner. Instructed to award compensatory damages only for those acts committed after the effective date of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, the jury awarded Brinkley-Obu $10,000 for the Title VII violation.

On June 22, 1993, the district court denied HTI's motion for judgment as a matter of law, entering judgment for Brinkley-Obu on both the Equal Pay Act and the Title VII claims in the amounts awarded by the jury. HTI has appealed that judgment. Brinkley-Obu has appealed from the district court's judgment denying her liquidated damages under the Equal Pay Act entered on June 22, 1993, and from a subsequent order denying her equitable relief pursuant to Title VII. 1 We affirm the district court's judgment throughout, upholding the jury verdict in favor of Brinkley-Obu as well as the district court's denial of liquidated damages and equitable relief.


Hughes Aircraft Company acquired Honeywell's flight simulation division in 1989 and, subsequently, formed a subsidiary, HTI. HTI operates a facility in Herndon, Virginia where it designs and manufactures flight simulation systems for United States military aircraft. In April 1987, Brinkley-Obu began work with HTI's predecessor, Honeywell, as a contractor with duties in the quality assurance area. In July of that year, she was hired as a full-time employee by the director of the Product Assurance Department, Ronald Smith. The Product Assurance Department is responsible for the inspection, testing, and auditing of HTI's flight simulators to guarantee that quality standards are being met and to monitor compliance with contract specifications and Department of Defense regulations. The Product Assurance Department contains the following management functions: Quality Assurance (Hardware and Software) 2; Configuration Management; Quality Control; and Systems Test.

Brinkley-Obu entered the company as a grade level E-2 Quality Engineer making $38,000 a year when she was 31 years old. 3 Trial testimony established that she was qualified to come in as an E-4 or E-5 level engineer based on her educational background and seven years of relevant experience. She submitted a request for a starting salary of $42,000 which Smith, the person hiring her, denied. 4 During her tenure at HTI, Brinkley-Obu progressed fairly rapidly as far as titles and responsibilities were concerned. In March 1988, Smith made her the "acting" Hardware Quality Assurance Supervisor (HQAS). 5 At that time, her salary was raised to $39,540 although she remained an E-2. In August 1988, Brinkley-Obu became the permanent HQAS; assumed responsibility for Quality Control because the existing Quality Control Supervisor had been laid off; received a $41,904 salary ($3,492 per month); and advanced to the AS-3 job grade. She received $82 above the mid-point for her AS-3 grade. 6

In October 1988, Brinkley-Obu took approximately four months of maternity leave, planning to return in February 1989. Before she left, the Product Assurance Department hired an engineer named William Turner. Brinkley-Obu hired him as her subordinate, a "Senior Quality Engineer," and Smith instructed her to offer him an initial salary of $44,040 ($3,670 per month) at the E-3 job grade. Brinkley-Obu questioned the fact that she was instructed to offer a potential subordinate engineer a salary that exceeded her own. Smith replied, "I got you cheap." Turner was very qualified for the position. In his mid-fifties, he had extensive experience and an advanced degree. Brinkley-Obu approved of the job offer, though she questioned the salary.

When Brinkley-Obu left for maternity leave on October 24, 1988, Turner assumed her responsibilities as "acting" HQAS in her absence. Before she returned from leave, however, Smith created a managerial position and promoted Turner to "Hardware Quality Assurance Manager" (HQAM) transferring many of Brinkley-Obu's former responsibilities to him. Turner was also put in charge of Quality Control, formerly one of Brinkley-Obu's responsibilities. In February 1989, when Smith created the managerial position for Turner, Smith authorized an $18,000 raise for Turner increasing his salary to $62,040 (approximately a 40.9% increase to $5,167 per month) and elevated him to an "OD" job grade level.

When Brinkley-Obu returned to HTI on February 16, 1989, she was instructed to report to Turner. She was not demoted, nor was her salary decreased despite the fact that many of her responsibilities had been stripped from her position during her maternity leave. She continued to perform her remaining responsibilities despite what she considered to be a somewhat hostile atmosphere. She believed that Smith and Turner wanted to fire her. Testimony at trial by another employee in the department indicated that Turner was keeping a record of every "mistake" Brinkley-Obu made in order to begin to build a case against her. Brinkley-Obu's infant experienced some illness, and Brinkley-Obu's absence to care for her child was held against her. Smith told her that she was going to have to choose between "having a career and being a mama." Although she took some of her vacation leave to accommodate family sickness, she did not over-extend the total leave available to her. Despite the uncomfortable situation in which she found herself, she continued to perform her job satisfactorily.

In June 1989, approximately three months after she returned from maternity leave, Brinkley-Obu made her first formal complaints about her compensation to HTI's Human Resources Manager. She noted the disparities between her salary and Turner's as well as that of a subordinate in her group, David Calvert. She requested an evaluation. In mid-1989, Smith's replacement, Gene Gilliland, responded to Brinkley-Obu's complaints about her salary and saw to it that she received a salary increase to $44,604 and an "OC" job grade (Engineering Supervisor).

In early 1990, Turner was suspended for misconduct. By April 1990 he left the company and Brinkley-Obu became the Hardware Quality Assurance Manager several weeks later. In July, she received an 11.7% merit increase raising her salary to $49,836. The Quality Control function, previously performed by Turner, did not revert to Brinkley-Obu. Rather, it was assumed by a new hire, Edmond Monseur. In May 1990, Monseur came in as Quality Control Manager at $60,000 at the "OD" level. 7 Monseur, 64 years old at the time of trial, had three years of college training in engineering (he did not receive a degree), and 25 years experience at Vega Precision Laboratories in Vienna, Virginia, some of which time he spent developing the Quality Assurance program for that company. His highest salary at Vega was $50,000 and he was laid off one year after Vega was bought out by another company.

While employed at HTI as Quality Control Manager, Monseur received one pay raise in June 1991 to reach $63,000. In November 1991, he was demoted to Senior Principal Quality Engineer, E-5, due to reorganization, and he has reported directly to Brinkley-Obu since that time. HTI has not reduced his salary despite his reduced responsibilities. In January 1992, two months after Monseur was demoted to Engineer, Ron Tovsen, Gilliland's successor, assigned Brinkley-Obu responsibility for Quality Control management. 8 Meanwhile, early in 1991, Gilliland had consolidated the Hardware and Software ends of the operation and put Brinkley-Obu in charge of both of those managerial responsibilities. In August 1991, Brinkley-Obu was upgraded to an "OD" level and given a pay raise to $54,360 at Gilliland's initiative.

By January 1992, then, Brinkley-Obu was not only the Hardware Quality Assurance Manager in charge of Quality Control, she also had been assigned the responsibility for Software Quality Assurance Management as of April 1991. In January 1992, she was earning $54,360 a year for fulfilling all three managerial responsibilities.

The background of the software quality assurance position illustrates the HTI career of yet another male employee who was paid more than Brinkley-Obu for doing substantially equal work. Jeff Parnes was hired in September 1988 as Software Quality Assurance Manager (SQAM) at $55,860 and an "OE" job grade. 9 Highly qualified in the software area, Parnes held a college degree in math and a Masters degree in operations research and management science. He also had 14 years...

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