Hill v. Western Elec. Co., Inc., 80-1279

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
Citation672 F.2d 381
Docket NumberNo. 80-1279,80-1279
Parties28 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. 130, 28 Empl. Prac. Dec. P 32,478 Ollie T. HILL, John W. Ward, Charles R. Merriwether, Jr., Edward H. Minatee, Minnie Marble, Mary E. Carter, Individually and on behalf of all other persons similarly situated, Appellants, v. WESTERN ELECTRIC COMPANY, INC., Appellee. Equal Employment Advisory Council, Amicus Curiae.
Decision Date01 March 1982

Graeme Bush, Washington, D. C. (Paul S. Reichler, James A. Beat, Jeffrey A. Burt, Arnold & Porter, Geoffrey Judd Vitt, Washington, D. C., Washington Lawyers Committee on brief), for appellants.

Zachary D. Fasman, Washington, D. C. (Susan L. Segal, Seyfarth, Shaw, Fairweather & Geraldson, Washington, D. C., on brief), for appellee.

Before WIDENER and PHILLIPS, Circuit Judges, and RICHARD L. WILLIAMS, United States District Judge, sitting by designation.


In this appeal, three unsuccessful applicants for employment with Western Electric Company (Western) challenge the denial of their motion to intervene in a class action against Western as representatives of a portion of the class consisting of blacks and females who have discriminatorily been denied employment at Western's Arlington, Virginia facility. We vacate the order denying intervention on the basis that the district court did not adequately assess the motion, and remand for reconsideration of the motion in light of our discussion in this opinion.


This is the second appeal arising from a class action originally filed by eight present and former employees of Western seeking injunctive relief and back and front pay for alleged violations by Western of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 in discriminating against blacks and females in hiring, job placement and promotion at its Arlington, Virginia facility.

A central issue on the first appeal and again on this one involves the inclusion within the plaintiff class of unsuccessful hiring applicants as well as employees denied promotions and job assignments. In its original structuring of the class, the district court first concluded that it could not include such persons because none of the then named representative plaintiffs had been denied employment but were all employees. On the basis of our decision in Barnett v. W. T. Grant Co., 518 F.2d 543 (4th Cir. 1975), however, the district court reversed its earlier certification decision and expanded the class to include those who suffered discrimination in hiring. The expanded class was defined to include those blacks and females "who have applied for employment at Defendant's facility in Arlington, Virginia, since July 2, 1965, or who will hereafter apply."

Following a three-day bench trial the court issued a memorandum opinion concluding that Western had discriminated against blacks and women in violation of Title VII in hiring, job placement and promotion at its Arlington, Virginia facility, Hill v. Western Electric Co., No. 75-375-A (E.D.Va., April 30, 1976) (mem.) and subsequently entered a decree providing for a special master's determination of claims to back and front pay by identified members of the certified class. Western was required to institute priority hiring and promotion of blacks and females to remedy past discrimination and to develop and implement nondiscriminatory, job-related hiring and promotion criteria to avoid future discrimination. To prevent Western from seeking to avoid compliance with the decree through institutional reorganization, the court appended a footnote to the decree in which it stated that "(t)he Arlington facility for purposes of this decree encompasses ... any functional successor" to either of the operations based at that facility. Jt. App. at 276.

On appeal, we affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded. Hill v. Western Electric Co., 596 F.2d 99 (4th Cir. 1979). With respect to the inclusion of hiring discriminatees in the certified class, we stated that, while our decision in Barnett arguably might have authorized the named plaintiffs, who were employed, to represent persons denied employment, that possibility was now foreclosed by the Supreme Court's intervening holding in East Texas Motor Freight System, Inc. v. Rodriguez, 431 U.S. 395, 97 S.Ct. 1891, 52 L.Ed.2d 453 (1977), that a class representative must "possess the same interest and suffer the same injury" as the class members he or she seeks to represent. Therefore, we vacated the district court's finding of discrimination in hiring for lack of an adequate representative for those members of the certified class who allegedly were discriminatorily denied employment. Hill v. Western Electric Co., 596 F.2d at 101-02. Following the denial of plaintiffs' petition for certiorari, our mandate was reinstated, and the case was remanded to the district court.

Plaintiffs' counsel then filed motions for intervention or to amend the complaint to add three new plaintiffs-Bailey, Johnson and Furr-to the action. Intervention was sought on behalf of the individuals and on behalf of the class of rejected applicants for employment at Western's Arlington facility. With respect to the qualifications of the three proposed intervenors, plaintiffs alleged that Bailey was a black female who had been denied employment at the Arlington facility in 1972 and 1973 as the result of discriminatory hiring practices, which have continued, without interruption, to the present. She filed a charge with the EEOC on November 6, 1979 and was issued a right-to-sue letter on December 6, 1979.

Johnson, a black female, and Furr, a black male, alleged that they had unsuccessfully applied for employment with Western as "installers" in August 1979. Although they applied at Western's Landover, Maryland facility, they contended that this facility was a successor to one of the operations that had been housed at Western's Arlington facility. They also alleged that they had been denied employment because they failed to pass a test that was essentially the same as the one that the district court had found to be discriminatory when used at the Arlington facility. Johnson filed a charge with the EEOC on October 2, 1979, while Furr filed his charge on October 17, 1979. Both were issued right-to-sue letters on December 6, 1979.

Ruling on the motion to intervene, the district court first concluded that it was not precluded by the terms of the remand of this court from allowing intervention but, in the exercise of its discretion, then denied the motion. The court gave two essential reasons. First, the length of time that the case had continued from its filing in May 1975. On this the court observed that "(i)t's time this case got concluded." Second, said the court, intervention would require a hearing on the hiring claims, and this would delay relief on the job assignment claims now upheld on the first appeal because "it's impractical if not impossible to be running part of the case here and part before the master on the job assignments claims."

Plaintiffs and Western subsequently reached, and submitted to the district court, a settlement agreement covering all outstanding issues in the litigation except for the claims relating to hiring discrimination. The court entered a final judgment approving this agreement on September 19, 1980, and this appeal challenging the refusal to allow intervention for prosecution of the hiring claims followed.


The sole issue is the propriety of the district court's denial of the motion for permissive intervention under Fed.R.Civ.P. 24(b). 1 Although a decision on a Rule 24(b) motion lies within the sound discretion of the trial court, Black v. Central Motor Lines, Inc., 500 F.2d 407, 408 (4th Cir. 1974), some standards have been developed to guide the courts in making intervention determinations. We conclude that the district judge did not properly apply those standards here.

The court first emphasized the lateness of the motion in the progress of the protracted litigation. We have held, however, that in ruling on motions for intervention "(m)ere passage of time is but one factor to be considered in light of all the circumstances." Spring Construction Co. v. Harris, 614 F.2d 374, 377 (4th Cir. 1980); accord, Atkins v. State Board of Education, 418 F.2d 874 (4th Cir. 1969). In a class action the critical issue with respect to timeliness is whether the proposed intervenor moved to intervene "as soon as it became clear ... that the interests of the unnamed class members would no longer be protected by the named class representatives." United Airlines, Inc. v. McDonald, 432 U.S. 385, 394, 97 S.Ct. 2464, 2469, 53 L.Ed.2d 423 (1977). Because the airline stewardess in McDonald had moved to intervene within the time for taking an appeal and as soon as she was advised that the named class representatives did not intend to prosecute an appeal, the Supreme Court in that case affirmed the court of appeals' reversal of the district court's order denying intervention. Id. at 396, 97 S.Ct. at 2470.

Invoking this standard, Western argues that the proposed intervenors should have become aware of the need and moved to intervene at the very latest when the court of appeals entered its inadequacy of representation decision in April 1979. A motion to intervene filed more than nine months after that date could not have been timely says Western.

The proposed intervenors, on the other hand, argue that they were under no obligation to seek intervention until the Supreme Court denied plaintiff's petition for a writ of certiorari on October 29, 1979. On this we agree with the intervenors. Until the Supreme Court denied certiorari the named class representatives were actively pursuing, and had not been foreclosed from representing, the interests of the hiring class. At the time certiorari was denied, proposed intervenors Johnson...

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