Clanton v. Orleans Parish School Bd., Nos. 79-1300

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore COLEMAN, RUBIN and WILLIAMS; JERRE S. WILLIAMS
Citation649 F.2d 1084
Decision Date06 July 1981
Docket Number79-2126,Nos. 79-1300
Parties26 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. 740, 63 A.L.R.Fed. 715, 26 Empl. Prac. Dec. P 31,946 Barbara S. CLANTON, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. ORLEANS PARISH SCHOOL BOARD, et al., Defendants-Appellants. . Unit A

Page 1084

649 F.2d 1084
26 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. 740, 63 A.L.R.Fed. 715,
26 Empl. Prac. Dec. P 31,946
Barbara S. CLANTON, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees,
v.
ORLEANS PARISH SCHOOL BOARD, et al., Defendants-Appellants.
Nos. 79-1300, 79-2126.
United States Court of Appeals,
Fifth Circuit.
Unit A
July 6, 1981.

Page 1086

Nelson, Nelson and Lombard, Ltd., John P. Nelson, Jr., Larry Samuel, III, Richard G. Vinet, New Orleans, La., for plaintiffs-appellees.

Polack, Rosenberg & Rittenberg, Franklin V. Endom, Jr., New Orleans, La., for defendants-appellants.

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Before COLEMAN, RUBIN and WILLIAMS, Circuit Judges.

JERRE S. WILLIAMS, Circuit Judge:

Seven black female New Orleans, Louisiana public school teachers (the teachers) brought this action against the Orleans Parish School Board (the Board), 1 contending that the Board's maternity leave policy for the 1972-73 school year violated their Fourteenth Amendment rights to equal protection and due process and the Title VII (Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.) proscription of race and sex discrimination in employment. Five of the teachers prevailed in the district court on their § 1983 claims for backpay and attorneys' fees. The liability of the individual defendants was grounded upon constitutional violations coupled with the district court's rejection of the individual defendants' qualified immunity defense. The district court assessed attorneys' fees against all defendants in their official and individual capacities under 42 U.S.C. § 1988. On appeal, we affirm the district court's judgment insofar as it imposed liability for backpay on the Board. We find that the Board's policy violated Title VII, but we reverse the district court's finding that the Board's policy established an irrebuttable presumption violative of the due process clause. We reverse the judgment of the district court on the issue of the defendants' individual liability for backpay, concluding that the individual defendants established as a matter of law a qualified immunity defense. Finally, we affirm the district court's attorneys' fee award with respect to the Board, but reverse the award of attorneys' fees against the individual defendants.

I. FACTS

A. The Board's Maternity Leave and Sick Leave Policies

On March 22, 1971, the Board revised its then existing maternity leave regulations. The revised regulations were set out in the

Page 1087

school district's Personnel Handbook of 1971. These regulations remained in effect until January 9, 1973, when the Board adopted a new maternity leave policy. 2

The pre-1973 maternity leave policy contained six essential features. 3 First, a teacher who became pregnant was required to notify the Board of her pregnancy at the beginning of the fourth month of pregnancy and was automatically placed on leave at the end of the sixth month of pregnancy. Second, the maternity leave of absence expired three semesters from the date of commencement of leave. Third, all teachers who intended to return to teaching at the beginning of the first semester of the opening

Page 1088

of a school session were required to notify the Assistant Superintendent for Personnel (the Superintendent), in writing, no later than June 1st of their desire to return. Fourth, the Superintendent would reinstate a teacher at the expiration of the three semester period after submission and approval of physician's certificate of fitness to teach, but the Board was not required to return a teacher from maternity leave to her former school. Fifth, a teacher could request to be returned from maternity leave prior to the expiration of three semesters, but approval of such a request was within the Superintendent's discretion. Sixth, maternity leave was without salary and teachers on maternity leave were not allowed to use their accumulated sick leave.

The Board also maintained a separate policy for absence occasioned by "personal illness or emergency." 4 Under this sick leave policy, each teacher was credited ten working days per year for sick leave, and the unused days of sick leave would accrue without limit for each school session. A teacher could use any number of current and accrued sick leave days for any personal illness, but not for disability due to pregnancy. An employee expecting to be absent for more than ten work days was required to notify the district in writing and submit a statement from a physician attesting to the reason for the absence and its probable duration. Upon approval of the employee's sick leave request by the Board's doctor, the employee was allowed to return to work on the date his or her doctor certified that the employee would be fit to return.

Page 1089

B. The Desegregation Program and its Effect on the Return of Teachers from Maternity Leave

During the 1972-73 school year, the New Orleans public school system was undergoing a major faculty readjustment, occasioned by its history of student and faculty racial segregation, that affected the Board's actions with respect to the return of teachers from maternity leave. On October 11, 1967, in the case of Earl Benjamin Bush v. Orleans Parish School Board, 205 F.Supp. 893, the district court for the Eastern District of Louisiana issued an order mandating desegregation of students and faculty in the New Orleans public school system. 5

After taking some steps toward desegregating the faculty of its school system, the Board, on June 10, 1972, adopted a resolution which established a program for implementing the court's order. 6 The Board's resolution ordered, inter alia, an involuntary transfer of approximately 1,500 teachers of both races to different teaching positions effective August 28, 1972. About one-third of the entire teaching corps was involved in this involuntary transfer program.

During the period of implementation of the desegregation order, the school district experienced significant student attrition. 7 Because the number of teachers hired for any given year was tied directly to student enrollment, decreasing student enrollment forced the elimination of over 340 teaching

Page 1090

positions for the 1972-73 school year. Faced with this surplus of teachers, the Board decided to retain as "relief" teachers those teachers for whom no teaching posts were available. These "relief" teachers received full pay and acted as substitutes when necessary. No surplus teachers were terminated or placed on forced leave due to lack of vacancies. But teachers desiring to return from maternity leave prior to the three semester limit were refused reinstatement to the payroll as regular or "relief" teachers for varying lengths of time based on the lack of teaching vacancies.

C. The Plaintiff Teachers and the Development of the Suit

On December 8, 1972, seven black female New Orleans public school teachers Barbara S. Clanton, Marion Davis, Joyce J. Joseph, Carolyn Streams, Verna Jones, Yvette Monette and Kathleen Wooten filed suit against the Board and the individual defendants in federal district court. While the facts of the teachers' pregnancies and the actions taken by the Board with respect to their maternity leaves differed, the teachers had four common characteristics: (1) prior to her pregnancy, each had been a New Orleans public elementary or secondary school teacher; (2) each had become pregnant and had gone on maternity leave before the beginning of the 1972-73 school year; (3) each had requested to return from maternity leave sometime during the 1972-73 school year and had submitted an approved certificate of physical fitness to return to work; and (4) the Superintendent deferred reinstatement beyond the date each teacher was willing and physically able to return to work.

The teachers complained, inter alia, of the Board's actions in (1) requiring them to go on leave at the end of their sixth month of pregnancy, (2) refusing them accumulated sick leave benefits during the leave of absence, and (3) refusing them reinstatement although they were willing and fit to return. They asserted that the Board's actions constituted discrimination on the basis of race, sex, and pregnancy violative of their rights under the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. They requested preliminary and permanent injunctive relief, declaratory relief, damages (including backpay and sick leave pay), and attorneys' fees under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983. The teachers also sought to represent a class consisting of all New Orleans public school teachers who had experienced discrimination by virtue of the Board's maternity leave policies.

In answer to the teachers' complaint, the Board argued that none of its maternity leave policies were unconstitutional. In addition, the Board defended its failure to return the teachers to work on the dates they were willing and fit to return on the basis that some of the teachers failed to meet the June 1st deadline for notification of intent to return to work and that, due to the elimination of teacher positions brought about by the desegregation program, no vacancies in teaching positions existed on the dates upon which the teachers sought to return.

On January 9, 1973, the Board adopted a new maternity leave policy. 8 On two occasions in January and February, 1973, the district court denied the teachers' request for a preliminary injunction.

In the spring of 1973, two teachers whose claims were very similar to those of the original plaintiffs, Zeola Kelly and Annie Davis, were allowed to enter the lawsuit as plaintiff intervenors. On July 13, 1973, the teachers filed an amended complaint which asserted a cause of action under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., based on the factual allegations contained in the original

Page 1091

complaint. On May 8, 1974, the district court denied the teachers' motions for class certification and summary judgment. In the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
76 practice notes
  • Williams v. Treen, No. 80-3792
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • March 31, 1982
    ...evaluation of official conduct. Barker v. Norman, 651 F.2d 1107, 1125-1127 (5th Cir. 1981); Clanton v. New Orleans Parish School Board, 649 F.2d 1084, 1100 (5th Cir. 1981); Dilmore v. Stubbs, 636 F.2d 966, 968 (5th Cir. 1981); Bryan v. Jones, 530 F.2d 1210, 1214 (5th Cir. 1976) (en banc). U......
  • Harris v. Amoco Production Co., No. 83-3665
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • August 16, 1985
    ...S.Ct. at 618-19. 19 See Crawford v. United States Steel Corp., 660 F.2d 663, 666 (5th Cir.1981); Clanton v. Orleans Parish School Board, 649 F.2d 1084, 1094 n. 13 (5th Cir.1981); Sessions v. Rusk State Hospital, 648 F.2d 1066, 1069 (5th Cir.1981); cf. Stearns v. Consolidated Management, Inc......
  • Busby v. City of Orlando, No. 89-3528
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • May 17, 1991
    ...the employer, not individual employees whose actions would constitute a violation of the Act. See Clanton v. Orleans Parish School Bd., 649 F.2d 1084, 1099 & n. 19 (5th Cir.1981) 7; see also 42 U.S.C. Sec. 2000e(b) (1988) (definition of "employer"); 42 U.S.C. Sec. 2000e-2 (1988) (violation ......
  • Tasby v. Wright, Civ. A. No. 3-4211-H.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Texas
    • August 27, 1982
    ...or "overlapped" with, the successful issues. See Wilson v. Taylor, 658 F.2d 1021 (5th Cir.1981); Clanton v. Orleans Parish School Board, 649 F.2d 1084, 1102-3 (5th Cir.1981); Familias Unidas v. Briscoe, 619 F.2d at 406. However, the Fifth Circuit standard has been recently clarified by the ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
76 cases
  • Williams v. Treen, No. 80-3792
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • March 31, 1982
    ...evaluation of official conduct. Barker v. Norman, 651 F.2d 1107, 1125-1127 (5th Cir. 1981); Clanton v. New Orleans Parish School Board, 649 F.2d 1084, 1100 (5th Cir. 1981); Dilmore v. Stubbs, 636 F.2d 966, 968 (5th Cir. 1981); Bryan v. Jones, 530 F.2d 1210, 1214 (5th Cir. 1976) (en banc). U......
  • Harris v. Amoco Production Co., No. 83-3665
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • August 16, 1985
    ...S.Ct. at 618-19. 19 See Crawford v. United States Steel Corp., 660 F.2d 663, 666 (5th Cir.1981); Clanton v. Orleans Parish School Board, 649 F.2d 1084, 1094 n. 13 (5th Cir.1981); Sessions v. Rusk State Hospital, 648 F.2d 1066, 1069 (5th Cir.1981); cf. Stearns v. Consolidated Management, Inc......
  • Busby v. City of Orlando, No. 89-3528
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • May 17, 1991
    ...the employer, not individual employees whose actions would constitute a violation of the Act. See Clanton v. Orleans Parish School Bd., 649 F.2d 1084, 1099 & n. 19 (5th Cir.1981) 7; see also 42 U.S.C. Sec. 2000e(b) (1988) (definition of "employer"); 42 U.S.C. Sec. 2000e-2 (1988) (violation ......
  • Tasby v. Wright, Civ. A. No. 3-4211-H.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Texas
    • August 27, 1982
    ...or "overlapped" with, the successful issues. See Wilson v. Taylor, 658 F.2d 1021 (5th Cir.1981); Clanton v. Orleans Parish School Board, 649 F.2d 1084, 1102-3 (5th Cir.1981); Familias Unidas v. Briscoe, 619 F.2d at 406. However, the Fifth Circuit standard has been recently clarified by the ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT