Hazelwood School District v. United States

Decision Date27 June 1977
Docket NumberNo. 76-255,76-255
Citation433 U.S. 299,53 L.Ed.2d 768,97 S.Ct. 2736
PartiesHAZELWOOD SCHOOL DISTRICT et al., Petitioners, v. UNITED STATES
CourtU.S. Supreme Court
Syllabus

The United States brought this action against petitioners, the Hazelwood, Mo., School District, located in St. Louis County, and various officials, alleging that they were engaged in a 'pattern or practice' of teacher employment discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, which became applicable to petitioners as public employers on March 24, 1972. The District Court following trial ruled that the Government had failed to establish a pattern or practice of discrimination. The Court of Appeals reversed, in part on the ground that the trial court's analysis of statistical data rested on an irrelevant comparison of Negro teachers to Negro pupils in Hazelwood, instead of a comparison of Negro teachers in Hazelwood to Negro teachers in the relevant labor market area, which it found to consist of St. Louis County and the city of St. Louis, where 15.4% of the teachers are Negro. In the 1972-1973 and 1973-1974 school years only 1.4% and 1.8%, respectively, of Hazelwood's teachers were Negroes, and this statistical disparity, particularly when viewed against the background of Hazelwood's teacher hiring procedures, was held to constitute a prima facie case of a pattern or practice of racial discrimination. Petitioners contend that the statistical data on which the Court of Appeals relied cannot sustain a finding of a violation of Title VII. Held: The Court of Appeals erred in disregarding the statistical data in the record dealing with Hazelwood's hiring after it became subject to Title VII and the court should have remanded the case to the District Court for further findings as to the relevant labor market area and for an ultimate determination whether Hazelwood has engaged in a pattern or practice of employment discrimination since March 24, 1972. Though the Court of Appeals was correct in the view that a proper comparison was between the racial composition of Hazelwood's teaching staff and the racial composition of the qualified public school teacher population in the relevant labor market, it erred in disregarding the possibility that the prima facie statistical proof in the record might at the trial court level be rebutted by statistics dealing with Hazelwood's post-Act hiring practices such as with respect to the number of Negroes hired compared

to the total number of Negro applicants. For, once a prima facie case has been established by statistical work-force disparities, the employer must be given an opportunity to show that 'the claimed discriminatory pattern is a product of pre-Act hiring rather than unlawful post-Act discrimination,' International Brotherhood of Teamsters v. United States, 431 U.S. 324, 360, 97 S.Ct. 1843, 1857, 52 L.Ed.2d 396 and n. 17. The record showed, but the Court of Appeals in its conclusions ignored, that for the two-year period 1972-1974 3.7% of the new teachers hired in Hazelwood were Negroes. The court accepted the Government's argument that the relevant labor market was St. Louis County and the city of St. Louis without considering petitioners' contention that St. Louis County alone (where the figure was 5.7%) was the proper area because the city of St. Louis attempts to maintain a 50% Negro teaching staff. The difference between the figures may well be significant since the disparity between 3.7% and 5.7% may be sufficiently small to weaken the Government's other proof, while the disparity between 3.7% and 15.4% may be sufficiently large to reinforce it. In determining what figures provide the most accurate basis for comparison to the hiring figures at Hazelwood numerous other factors, moreover, must also be evaluated by the trial court. Pp. 306-313.

534 F.2d 805, vacated and remanded.

William H. Allen, Washington, D. C., for petitioners.

Lawrence G. Wallace, Washington, D. C., for respondent.

Mr. Justice STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

The petitioner Hazelwood School District covers 78 square miles in the northern part of St. Louis County, Mo. In 1973 the Attorney General brought this lawsuit against Hazelwood and various of its officials, alleging that they were engaged in a 'pattern or practice' of employment discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 78 Stat. 253, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (1970 ed. and Supp. V).1 The complaint asked for an injunction requiring Hazelwood to cease its discriminatory practices, to take affirmative steps to obtain qualified Negro faculty members, and to offer employment and give backpay to victims of past illegal discrimination.

Hazelwood was formed from 13 rural school districts between 1949 and 1951 by a process of annexation. By the 1967-1968 school year, 17,550 students were enrolled in the district, of whom only 59 were Negro; the number of Negro pupils increased to 576 of 25,166 in 1972-1973, a total of just over 2%.

From the beginning, Hazelwood followed relatively unstructured procedures in hiring its teachers. Every person requesting an application for a teaching position was sent one, and completed applications were submitted to a central per-

sonnel office, where they were kept on file.2 During the early 1960's the personnel office notified all applicants whenever a teaching position became available, but as the number of applications on file increased in the late 1960's and early 1970's, this practice was no longer considered feasible. The personnel office thus began the practice of selecting anywhere from 3 to 10 applicants for interviews at the school where the vacancy existed. The personnel office did not substantively screen the applicants in determining which of them to send for interviews, other than to ascertain that each applicant, if selected, would be eligible for state certification by the time he began the job. Generally, those who had most recently submitted applications were most likely to be chosen for interviews.3

Interviews were conducted by a department chairman, program coordinator, or the principal at the school where the teaching vacancy existed. Although those conducting the interviews did fill out forms rating the applicants in a number of respects, it is undisputed that each school principal possessed virtually unlimited discretion in hiring teachers for his school. The only general guidance given to the principals was to hire the 'most competent' person available, and such intangibles as 'personality, disposition, appearance, poise, voice, articulation, and ability to deal with people' counted heavily. The principal's choice was routinely honored by Hazelwood's Superintendent and the Board of Education.

In the early 1960's Hazelwood found it necessary to recruit new teachers, and for that purpose members of its staff visited a number of colleges and universities in Missouri and bordering States. All the institutions visited were predominantly white, and Hazelwood did not seriously recruit at either of the

two predominantly Negro four-year colleges in Missouri.4 As a buyer's market began to develop for public school teachers, Hazelwood curtailed its recruiting efforts. For the 1971-1972 school year, 3,127 persons applied for only 234 teaching vacancies; for the 1972-1973 school year, there were 2,373 applications for 282 vacancies. A number of the applicants who were not hired were Negroes.5

Hazelwood hired its first Negro teacher in 1969. The number of Negro faculty members gradually increased in successive years: 6 of 957 in the 1970 school year; 16 of 1,107 by the end of the 1972 school year; 22 of 1,231 in the 1973 school year. By comparison, according to 1970 census figures, of more than 19,000 teachers employed in that year in the St. Louis area, 15.4% were Negro. That percentage figure included the St. Louis City School District, which in recent years has followed a policy of attempting to maintain a 50% Negro teaching staff. Apart from that school district, 5.7% of the teachers in the county were Negro in 1970.

Drawing upon these historic facts, the Government mounted its 'pattern or practice' attack in the District Court upon four different fronts. It adduced evidence of (1) a history of alleged racially discriminatory practices, (2) statistical disparities in hiring, (3) the standardless and largely subjective hiring procedures, and (4) specific instances of alleged discrimination against 55 unsuccessful Negro applicants for teaching jobs. Hazelwood offered virtually no additional evidence in response, relying instead on evidence introduced by the Government, perceived deficiencies in the Government's case, and its own officially promulgated policy 'to hire all

teachers on the basis of training, preparation and recommendations, regardless of race, color or creed.'6

The District Court ruled that the Government had failed to establish a pattern or practice of discrimination. The court was unpersuaded by the alleged history of discrimination, noting that no dual school system had ever existed in Hazelwood. The statistics showing that relatively small numbers of Negroes were employed as teachers were found nonprobative, on the ground that the percentage of Negro pupils in Hazelwood was similarly small. The court found nothing illegal or suspect in the teacher-hiring procedures that Hazelwood had followed. Finally, the court reviewed the evidence in the 55 cases of alleged individual discrimination, and after stating that the burden of proving intentional discrimination was on the Government, it found that this burden had not been sustained in a single instance. Hence, the court entered judgment for the defendants. 392 F.Supp. 1276 (ED Mo.).

The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed. 534 F.2d 805. After suggesting that the District Court had assigned inadequate weight to evidence of discriminatory conduct...

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