Kyriazi v. Western Elec. Co.

Decision Date30 October 1978
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 475-73.
Citation461 F. Supp. 894
PartiesKyriaki Cleo KYRIAZI, Plaintiff, v. WESTERN ELECTRIC COMPANY et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of New Jersey




Vladeck, Elias, Vladeck & Lewis by Judith P. Vladeck, Margaret M. Young, New York City, for plaintiff.

Pitney, Hardin & Kipp by Edward P. Lynch, S. Joseph Fortunato, Barry A. Guryan, Claire B. Dubin, Morristown, N. J., for defendants.


STERN, District Judge.


This is a class action brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. The named plaintiff, Kyriaki Cleo Kyriazi ("Kyriazi"), charges defendant Western Electric Co. ("Western") with across-the-board sex-based discrimination with respect to virtually every condition of employment at its Kearny plant. Kyriazi also alleges that she herself was the victim of sex discrimination at Western in a number of respects. The issue of liability having been severed from that of damages, the case was tried on the liability issue alone commencing July 7, 1977 and concluding on December 1, 1977.

The Court, having heard the testimony at trial and having reviewed the voluminous exhibits submitted by the parties, finds that Western systematically denied women the employment opportunities it afforded men in the areas of hiring, promotion, and participation in training programs; that it slotted women initially into the lower-paying "women's jobs" and laid them off in disproportionate numbers in times of economic stress. This was proved through statistical evidence, never rebutted by the defendant, and through other evidence of purposeful discrimination.

In addition, the Court finds that Kyriazi is an adequate representative of the class, and that, as such, she may appropriately challenge Western's employment practices. Finally, the Court, having considered Kyriazi's individual case, finds that she was underrated, underpaid, and denied promotional opportunities by Western because of her sex; that she was harassed by her male co-workers; and that she was terminated on account of her sex and in retaliation for having lodged a complaint of sex discrimination.

A. Jurisdiction

The Court has jurisdiction over this action under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(3) and 28 U.S.C. § 1343(1). Timely charges of discrimination were lodged with the New Jersey Department on Civil Rights and with the EEOC, which found reasonable cause to believe there was discrimination against Kyriazi and all women employed at Western's Kearny plant. (P-161). Pendent jurisdiction exists over the tort claims against the individual defendants.1

B. Parties

Plaintiff Kyriazi was hired by Western in 1965 as a professional in the Information Systems (computer) field at Western's New York Headquarters. In February 1966 she was transferred into the Industrial Engineering organization at Western's Kearny plant. She was promoted to the position of Industrial Engineer in May 1967 and transferred in February 1969 into the Information Systems organization at Kearny. She was terminated by Western on November 19, 1971.

Kyriazi claims that (1) Western denied her promotions and gave her lower ratings and a lower salary than she deserved on account of her sex, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a); (2) that she was terminated by Western on account of her sex, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a); (3) that she was terminated by Western in retaliation for having filed formal charges against it, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a); (4) that Western and the five individual defendants conspired to deprive her of federally-protected rights, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3); and (5) that the five individual defendants are liable under state law for having tortiously interfered with her employment at Western.

Defendant Western, an "employer" within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(b), is engaged in the manufacture of telephone equipment. Western's Kearny Works Organization consists of a main facility, the Kearny plant, and a satellite location, the Clark Shops. The main facility manufactures exchange area and video pair cable, key equipment, PBX's switchboards, amplifiers for underseas cable, and transmission apparatus for the Bell System (Exhibit P-77; Introduction). The Clark Shops manufacture submarine cable repeaters for the United States Government (Exhibit P-77) and for the telephone company (Malina, 43: 5335-6) (Hobbie, Tr. 197).

The five named individual defendants are Fred Wilser, Kyriazi's supervisor during her tenure at the Information Systems department in Kearny; Ralph Boyd, who supervised a department of the Information Systems professionals during the period in which Kyriazi was physically located there; and Kyriazi's male co-workers in Information Systems: James Snyder, Robert Armstrong and Shen T. Liu.

C. Scope of Class and Class Claims

By order dated July 16, 1975, the Court certified the class to encompass:

all females who are now or at any time since June 9, 1971, have been employed by defendant Western Electric Company, or who sought employment with said Company during the pendency of this suit, at the Kearny works organization.

On behalf of this class, Kyriazi contends that women have been discriminated against in the areas of (1) Hiring, (2) Promotion, (3) Transfer, (4) Layoff, (5) Discharge, (6) Maternity Leave, (7) Tuition refund benefits, (8) Participation in the Bell Systems Savings Plan, (9) Participation in training programs, and (10) Opportunities for testing.

D. Kyriazi's EEOC Charge and its Effect on Class Membership

As a prerequisite to suit under Title VII, timely charges must be filed with both the state agency and with the EEOC. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e). Where a named plaintiff in a class action has complied with these requirements, he or she may represent a class composed of all those who could have filed charges of discrimination as of the date on which the named plaintiff filed her charge. Wetzel v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., 508 F.2d 239, 246 (3rd Cir.), cert. denied, 421 U.S. 1011, 95 S.Ct. 2415, 44 L.Ed.2d 679 (1975).

Kyriazi filed two charges of discrimination with the EEOC; an unsworn charge dated January 7, 1972 (P-161) and a sworn charge dated September 11, 1972 (D-79B).2 Western argues that the Court should credit only the latter charge, thus limiting class membership to all women who could have filed charges as of November 15, 1971, that is, 300 days before September 11, 1972.3

The Court, in accordance with its earlier order certifying the class, credits Kyriazi's first charge with the EEOC filed January 7, 1972, thereby allowing her to represent a class of women who had viable claims of discrimination within 210 days of that date, or June 9, 1971. For it is by now well-settled law that unsworn, unserved charges are effective on the date filed. See, e. g., Georgia Power Co. v. EEOC, 412 F.2d 462 (5th Cir. 1969); Choate v. Caterpillar Tractor Co., 402 F.2d 357 (7th Cir. 1968). In balancing the possible prejudice to each side, we find that selection of the earlier date affects only the measure of defendant's damages — not its liability — while selection of the latter date would preclude relief to women who were deliberately denied their federally-guaranteed right to equal employment opportunities. Accordingly, the Court adheres to its order certifying the class and holds that the class consists of all women who had viable claims of discrimination as of June 9, 1971.

Western argues further that the class claims should be limited to those asserted by Kyriazi in her EEOC charge. (Def's Pr. Finding No. 25). It is clear, however, that a Title VII named plaintiff may raise not only his or her own claims, but also those "growing out of such allegations during the pendency of the case before the Commission." King v. Georgia Power Co., 295 F.Supp. 943, 947 (N.D.Ga. 1968). See also, e. g., EEOC v. General Electric, 532 F.2d 359, 368-9 (4th Cir. 1976); Sanchez v. Standard Brands, Inc., 431 F.2d 455 (5th Cir. 1970).

E. Actionable Period

We next address the question of the time period for which Western may be held liable. Western argues that it may be held liable only for those acts of discrimination which occurred within the 210 days before Kyriazi filed her charge with the EEOC, and that claims arising prior to that date are time-barred. Plaintiff argues that while class membership is governed by this date, class members may secure remedies for acts of discrimination occurring back to July 2, 1965 (the effective date of Title VII) or the date of their hire, whichever is later, because Western has engaged in a "continuing violation" of Title VII.

The "continuing violation" theory permits a Title VII plaintiff to challenge an employment practice even if all the acts of discrimination alleged did not occur within the EEOC filing period. This is so because where an employer has regularly and systematically discriminated against a class it will often be impossible to isolate specific acts of discrimination occurring within the filing period. See generally, Barbara Lindemann Schlei and Paul Grossman, Employment Discrimination Law, 884-908 (1976). This theory serves a number of different purposes; for example, it permits a plaintiff to challenge a practice without the necessity of alleging that he or she is presently affected by it, see e. g., Bartmess v. Drewrys USA Inc., 444 F.2d 1186 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 404 U.S. 939, 92 S.Ct. 274, 30 L.Ed.2d 252 (1971) (female employee challenging system which forced women to retire earlier than men did not have to await her own retirement to file EEOC charge); Wetzel v. Liberty Mutual, supra (system of segregating females into certain jobs may be challenged at any time). It also permits a Title VII plaintiff to seek redress for acts of discrimination occurring pr...

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