Corning Glass Works v. Brennan Brennan v. Corning Glass Works 8212 29, 73 8212 695

Decision Date03 June 1974
Docket NumberNos. 73,s. 73
Citation94 S.Ct. 2223,417 U.S. 188,41 L.Ed.2d 1
PartiesCORNING GLASS WORKS, Petitioner, v. Peter J. BRENNAN, Secretary of Labor, United States Department of Labor. Peter J. BRENNAN, Secretary of Labor, United States Department of Labor, Petitioner, v. CORNING GLASS WORKS. —29, 73—695
CourtU.S. Supreme Court
Syllabus

Male employees at the Corning Glass Works (Corning) previously performed night shift inspection and were paid more than females, who performed the day shift inspection. A plantwide shift differential that subsequently came with unionization was superimposed on the existing base-wage difference between male night inspectors and female day inspectors. Thereafter, beginning June 1, 1966, Corning began to open up night shift jobs for women, who on an equal seniority basis with men were able to bid for the higher paid night inspection jobs as vacancies occurred. On January 20, 1969, a new 'job evaluation' system for setting wage rates took effect, under which all subsequently hired inspectors were to receive the same base wage (which was higher than the previous night shift rate) regardless of sex or shift. Employees hired before that date, however, when working night shift were to continue to receive a higher ('red circle') rate, thus perpetuating the previous differential in base pay between day and night inspectors. The Secretary of Labor brought these actions for backpay and injunctive relief against Corning, claiming that violations of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 had occurred at its Corning, N.Y. (No. 73—29), and Wellsboro, Pa. (No. 73—695), plants. In No. 73—29, the District Court granted relief, and the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed, concluding that Corning's practice violated the Act, while the District Court in No. 73—695 held that the Act had not been violated, and the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed. In order to establish a violation of the Act, it must be shown that an employer pays different wages to employees of opposite sexes 'for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working condi- tions,' except where the difference in payment is made pursuant to a seniority or merit system or one measuring earnings by quantity or quality of production, or where the differential is 'based on any other factor other than sex.' Held:

1. Corning violated the Act during the period from its effective date to June 1966. Pp. 195—205.

(a) The statutory term 'working conditions,' as is clear from the Act's legislative history, encompasses only physical surroundings and hazards and not the time of day worked. Pp. 197 204.

(b) The record amply supports the conclusion of the District Court in No. 73—29 that Corning had not sustained its burden of proof that the higher base wage for pre-June 1966 all-male night inspection work was in fact intended to serve as added compensation for night work, and thus was based on a 'factor other than sex.' Substantial evidence showed that the differential arose simply because men would not work at the low rates paid women inspectors and reflected a job market in which Corning could pay women less than men for the same work. Pp. 204—205.

2. Corning did not cure its violation in June 1966 by permitting women to work as night shift inspectors, since the violation could not have been cured except by equalizing the base wages of female day inspectors with the higher rates paid the night inspectors. Pp. 205—208.

3. The violation was not cured in 1969, when Corning equalized day and night inspector wage rates, since the 'red circle' rate perpetuated the discrimination. Pp. 208—210.

No. 73—29, 474 F.2d 226, affirmed; No. 73—695, 480 F.2d 1254, reversed and remanded.

Scott F. Zimmerman, Pittsburgh, Pa., for petitioner in No. 73 29 and for respondent in No. 73—695.

Allan A. Tuttle, Raleigh, N.C., for respondent in No. 73—29 and for petitioner in No. 73—695.

Mr. Justice MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.

These cases arise under the Equal Pay Act of 1963, 77 Stat. 56, § 3, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d)(1),1 which added to § 6 of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 the principle of equal pay for equal work regardless of sex. The principal question posed is whether Corning Glass Works violated the Act by paying a higher base wage to male night shift inspectors than it paid to female inspectors performing the same tasks on the day shift, where the higher wage was paid in addition to a separate night shift differential paid to all employees for night work. In No. 73—29, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in a case involving several Corning plants in Corning, New York, held that this practice vio- lated the Act. 474 F.2d 226 (1973). In No. 73—695, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in a case involving a Corning plant in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, reached the opposite conclusion. 480 F.2d 1254 (1973). We granted certiorari and consolidated the cases to resolve this unusually direct conflict between two circuits. 414 U.S. 1110, 94 S.Ct. 839, 38 L.Ed.2d 737 (1973). Finding ourselves in substantial agreement with the analysis of the Second Circuit, we affirm in No. 73—29 and reverse in No. 73—695.

I

Prior to 1925, Corning operated its plants in Wellsboro and Corning only during the day, and all inspection work was performed by women. Between 1925 and 1930, the company began to introduce automatic production equipment which made it desirable to institute a night shift. During this period, however, both New York and Pennsylvania law prohibited women from working at night. 2 As a result, in order to fill inspector positions on the new night shift, the company had to recruit male employees from among its male dayworkers. The male employees so transferred demanded and received wages substantially higher than those paid to women inspectors engaged on the two day shifts.3 During this same period, however no plant-wide shift differential existed and male employees working at night, other than inspectors, received the same wages as their day shift counterparts. Thus a situation developed where the night inspectors were all male,4 the day inspectors all female, and the male inspectors received significantly higher wages.

In 1944, Corning plants at both locations were organized by a labor union and a collective-bargaining agreement was negotiated for all production and maintenance employees. This agreement for the first time established a plantwide shift differential,5 but this change did not eliminate the higher base wage paid to male night inspectors. Rather, the shift differential was superimposed on the existing difference in base wages between male night inspectors and female day inspectors.

Prior to June 11, 1964, the effective date of the Equal Pay Act,6 the law in both Pennsylvania and New York was amended to permit women to work at night. 7 It was not until some time after the effective date of the Act, however, that Corning initiated efforts to eliminate the differential rates for male and female inspectors. Beginning in June 1966, Corning started to open up jobs on the night shift to women. Previously separate male and female seniority lists were consolidated and women became eligible to exercise their seniority, on the same basis as men, to bid for the higher paid night inspection jobs as vacancies occurred.

On January 20, 1969, a new collective-bargaining agreement went into effect, establishing a new 'job evaluation' system for setting wage rates. The new agreement abolished for the future the separate base wages for day and night shift inspectors and imposed a uniform base wage for inspectors exceeding the wage rate for the night shift previously in effect. All inspectors hired after January 20, 1969, were to receive the same base wage, whatever their sex or shift. The collective-bargaining agreement further provided, however, for a higher 'red circle' rate for employees hired prior to January 20, 1969, when working as inspectors on the night shift. This 'red circle' rate served essentially to perpetuate the differential in base wages between day and night inspectors.

The Secretary of Labor brought these cases to enjoin Corning from violating the Equal Pay Act8 and to collect back wages allegedly due female employees bacause of past violations. Three distinct questions are presented (1) Did Corning ever violate the Equal Pay Act by paying male night shift inspectors more than female day shift inspectors? (2) If so, did Corning cure its violation of the Act in 1966 by permitting women to work as night shift inspectors? (3) Finally, if the violation was not remedied in 1966, did Corning cure its violation in 1969 by equalizing day and night inspector wage rates but establishing higher 'red circle' rates for existing employees working on the night shift?

II

Congress' purpose in enacting the Equal Pay Act was to remedy what was perceived to be a serious and endemic problem of employment discrimination in private industry—the fact that the wage structure of 'many segments of American industry has been based on an ancient but outmoded belief that a man, because of his role in society, should be paid more than a woman even though his duties are the same.' S.Rep. No. 176, 88th Cong., 1st Sess., 1 (1963). The solution adopted was quite simple in principle: to require that 'equal work will be rewarded by equal wages.' Ibid.

The Act's basic structure and operation are similarly straightforward. In order to make out a case under the Act, the Secretary must show that an employer pays different wages to employees of opposite sexes 'for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions.' Although the Act is silent on this point, its legislative history makes plain that the Secretary has the burden of proof on this issue,9 as both...

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