Jackson v. Seaboard Coast Line R. Co.

Decision Date17 June 1982
Docket Number80-7965,Nos. 80-7846,s. 80-7846
Citation678 F.2d 992,28 FEP cases 443
Parties29 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. 442, 29 Empl. Prac. Dec. P 32,851, 10 Fed. R. Evid. Serv. 1410 Curtis JACKSON, W. C. McClendon, Lige Scretchen, Nathaniel Cooper and W. E. Parker, Plaintiffs-Appellees, Cross-Appellants, v. SEABOARD COAST LINE RAILROAD COMPANY, Defendant, Brotherhood Railway Carmen of the United States and Canada, Defendant-Appellant, Cross-Appellee. Curtis JACKSON, W. C. McClendon, Lige Scretchen, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. SEABOARD COAST LINE RAILROAD, CO., Defendant, Brotherhood Railway Carmen of the United States and Canada, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Eleventh Circuit

Mulholland & Hickey, Thomas A. Woodley, Edward J. Hickey, Jr., Washington, D. C., Oliver, Maner & Gray, Savannah, Ga., for Brotherhood of Ry. Carmen.

Fletcher Farrington, Savannah, Ga., for Curtis Jackson et al.

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia.

Before VANCE, KRAVITCH and CLARK, Circuit Judges.

KRAVITCH, Circuit Judge:

The Brotherhood Railway Carmen of the United States and Canada (Brotherhood) appeals from the district court's finding that the union violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Pub.L. No. 88-352, 78 Stat. 253, as amended (codified at 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (1976)), by participating in racially discriminatory promotion practices. Appellant urges us to reverse the judgment on the grounds that the district court 1) lacked jurisdiction over the plaintiffs' Title VII claims; 2) erred in not finding that the alleged discrimination resulted from a bona fide seniority system protected from attack under § 703(h) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; 3) applied the wrong legal standards in finding that the Brotherhood violated Title VII; 4) resolved issues of material fact on summary judgment and 5) improperly refused to permit a Brotherhood witness to testify. In addition, the Brotherhood appeals from the district court's denial of its motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b) to set aside the back pay award, arguing that the court abused its discretion in denying its motion. 1 Appellees cross-appeal from a jury verdict for the Brotherhood on their claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, on the ground that the district court erred in not directing a partial verdict for the appellees. Finding the parties' contentions without merit, we affirm the decisions of the district court.

I. Factual Background

Since the 1940's, the Brotherhood Railway Carmen of the United States and Canada has represented those employees at Seaboard Coast Line Railroad's (SCL's) Waycross, Georgia Car Department, whose task is to maintain and repair the railroad's rolling stock. Craft members include carmen, carman apprentices, helper apprentices, and carman helpers. Carmen are the highest paid members of the craft. The only promotion as of right to the carman position accrues to carman apprentices and helper apprentices. Carman apprentices are hired under a formal apprenticeship agreement, which contemplates a four year training period. Helper apprentices serve two years as carman helpers and then enter the carman apprenticeship program with one year of credit toward satisfying the apprenticeship requirements. Carman helpers assist carmen and carman apprentices and receive no credit toward becoming carmen, regardless of their length of service. 2 A carman helper can qualify for the carmen's roster by serving 8320 hours, approximately four work years, as a temporary-"set-up"-carman.

Appellees, all of whom were black, were hired by the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad (ACL), SCL's predecessor, in the early 1940's and have for the most part served as carman helpers since 1950. 3 When appellees were first hired as carman helpers, blacks could not obtain jobs as carmen, carman apprentices, or helper apprentices. Although both blacks and whites were employed as carman helpers, only the white carman helpers were admitted into the helper apprenticeship program. In other words, blacks could obtain jobs in the carman craft only as carman helpers-the position of lowest standing in the craft and the only position offering no opportunity for advancement. Nevertheless, in the early 1950's a few black carman helpers were promoted to the position of carman at the insistence of Roy F. Osborne, chairman of the grievance committee of the local union, who believed it unfair that qualified blacks were not permitted to join the carmen's roster. After Osborne retired from that position, the union never again requested the railroad to promote black carman helpers to carmen.

In 1955, the railroad ceased hiring carman helpers. By 1960, all of the white carman helpers who so desired had been promoted, leaving the job of carman helper to the exclusive dominion of black employees-the appellees and a few others. The district court found that as of 1960, each appellee was qualified to serve as a carman. In 1955, when business was booming, all of the appellees except Parker were set-up to carmen and performed satisfactorily until demoted to their carman helper positions when work slowed down. Appellee Parker learned the carman's trade during the decade from 1950-60 while working as a carman helper. Thus, appellees were not relegated to the position of carman helper because they were unqualified.

In 1960, all of the appellees except Scretchen were laid-off from their positions as carman helpers and except for Cooper and McClendon remained furloughed throughout the decade. See note 3 supra. During the decade, however, two events significant to this action occurred. First, in 1965, in response to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the railroad began hiring blacks into its carman apprenticeship program. The Brotherhood asserts that the appellees were offered the opportunity to become apprentices; however, the appellees testified at trial that they had received no such offers. Second, in 1967, the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad merged with the Seaboard Airline Railroad to form the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad. Shortly thereafter the Brotherhood and SCL entered into a new collective bargaining agreement, effective 1968, which contained many provisions similar to those in collective bargaining agreements between the union and SCL's predecessors. See note 2 supra. For example, Appendix F detailed the scheme for advancement to the position of carman as described above, as well as the manner in which shortages in the carman position were to be filled. It provided for the continued automatic promotion of carman apprentices and helper apprentices to the position of carman and retained the requirement that carman helpers serve 8320 hours as set-up carmen before qualifying for the carmen's roster. This latter requirement affected only black employees, including appellees, all of whom were hired as carman helpers prior to 1952. It also effectively precluded appellees from advancing to carmen even though they were qualified to serve in that position. A union official testified that the Brotherhood could have negotiated to modify the existing promotion system to permit qualified carman helpers to advance to the ranks of carmen without first serving 8320 hours as set-up carmen but did not. In fact, in negotiating Appendix F, the Brotherhood insisted on a new promotion provision that gave the union more control over the railroad's decisions regarding the promotion and demotion of employees.

As the 1960's came to a close, the appellees began to return to their positions as carman helpers. Appellee Cooper returned to his position in 1966, McClendon returned in 1969 and the remaining appellees returned in 1971. In 1971, the appellees were temporarily set-up to carmen and performed satisfactorily. Soon thereafter they began to inquire whether they would ever be promoted. By 1971 some of the plaintiffs had been with the railroad for thirty years and all had been there twenty years. Nevertheless, they were told that they could be promoted only after serving 8320 hours as set-up carmen as required by the collective bargaining agreement.

Prompted by the promotion of three white employees to carmen in late February of 1973, appellee Jackson wrote a letter March 12, 1973, to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), complaining that he had "been discriminated against ever since 1955 in reference to promotion." On April 6, 1973, Jackson wrote Shop Superintendent O. G. Wood, asking for "favorable consideration to my request that I be promoted to carman," and that same day filed a formal charge with the EEOC, alleging that Seaboard Coast Line Railroad and "BRC of A Local No. 508" had discriminated against him by "upgrading other employees (white) with less experience or seniority."

Jackson timely filed this action in federal district court after receiving a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC. Originally, the suit was brought as a class action under Title VII against the SCL and the Brotherhood, alleging in essence that the promotion provisions contained in the 1967 collective bargaining agreement, as well as in predecessor agreements, have served to perpetuate past employment discrimination against black carman helpers and have continuously discriminated against them by depriving them of advancement to the position of carman. Jackson subsequently amended the original complaint: he deleted the railroad as a primary defendant, dropped the class action allegations, joined as named plaintiffs W. C. McClendon, Lige Scretchen, Nathanial Cooper, and W. E. Parker, who were initially members of the class, and added additional claims for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1981. After discovery was completed, the appellees and the appellant filed motions for summary judgment, which the district court denied. Following a three day trial, the jury returned a verdict on the § 1981 claims in favor of the Brotherhood. 4 Nine months later, on May 15, 1980, the district court issued its...

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