Novotny v. Great American Federal Sav. and Loan Ass'n, No. 77-1756

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore SEITZ, Chief Judge, and ROSENN and GARTH; Before SEITZ, Chief Judge, and ALDISERT, ADAMS, GIBBONS, ROSENN, HUNTER, WEIS, GARTH and HIGGINBOTHAM; ADAMS; Warren
Citation584 F.2d 1235
Decision Date07 August 1978
Docket NumberNo. 77-1756
Parties17 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. 1252, 17 Empl. Prac. Dec. P 8576 John R. NOVOTNY, Appellant, v. GREAT AMERICAN FEDERAL SAVINGS & LOAN ASSOCIATION, John A. Virostek, Joseph E. Bugel, John J. Dravecky, Daniel T. Kubasak, Edward J. Lesko, James E. Orris, Joseph A. Prokopovitsh, John G. Micenko and Frank J. Vanek.

Page 1235

584 F.2d 1235
17 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. 1252, 17 Empl. Prac.
Dec. P 8576
John R. NOVOTNY, Appellant,
v.
GREAT AMERICAN FEDERAL SAVINGS & LOAN ASSOCIATION, John A.
Virostek, Joseph E. Bugel, John J. Dravecky, Daniel T.
Kubasak, Edward J. Lesko, James E. Orris, Joseph A.
Prokopovitsh, John G. Micenko and Frank J. Vanek.
No. 77-1756.
United States Court of Appeals,
Third Circuit.
Argued Feb. 16, 1978.
Reargued May 11, 1978.
Decided Aug. 7, 1978.

Page 1237

Stanley M. Stein, Feldstein, Grinberg, Stein & McKee, Pittsburgh, Pa., for appellant.

Eugene K. Connors, Walter G. Bleil, Reed, Smith, Shaw & McClay, Pittsburgh, Pa., for appellees.

Abner W. Sibal, Gen. Counsel, Joseph T. Eddins, Jr., Associate Gen. Counsel, Charles L. Reischel, Asst. Gen. Counsel, Lutz Alexander Prager, Gary T. Brown, Attys., E. E. O. C., Washington, D. C., amicus curiae.

Argued Feb. 16, 1978

Before SEITZ, Chief Judge, and ROSENN and GARTH, Circuit Judges.

Reargued May 11, 1978 En Banc

Before SEITZ, Chief Judge, and ALDISERT, ADAMS, GIBBONS, ROSENN, HUNTER, WEIS, GARTH and HIGGINBOTHAM, Circuit Judges.

OPINION OF THE COURT

ADAMS, Circuit Judge.

Advocacy of equal rights has seldom been a completely secure vocation. Whether out of fear or for less attractive motives, certain individuals view the advance of equality as a threat to be opposed. Those who take up the cause of equal rights run the risk that their persons and property will suffer the consequences of their opponents' hostility. In days past, this risk exposed individuals to serious harm. Harassment was routine; more serious threats and physical injury were not uncommon. Fortunately, however, such flagrant retaliation has largely subsided. In this case we are called upon to determine whether statutory provisions which did service against the violent assaults on equal-rights advocates in earlier times or other, comparable, legislative enactments can guard against less dramatic retribution.

The precise issue here is whether 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) and 42 U.S.C. § 2000e (Title VII) protect an employee who claims to have been discharged because his actions and advocacy stood in the path of a plan to deprive women of their equal employment rights.

I. FACTS

John R. Novotny, the plaintiff, began work with Great American Federal Savings and Loan Association (GAF) in 1950. During subsequent years he rose through the ranks to become the Secretary of the company and a member of its board of directors. In the course of his employment, Novotny alleges that he discovered that the individual defendants in this action, officers and board members, "intentionally and deliberately embarked upon and pursued a course of conduct the effect of which was to deny female employees equal employment opportunity." 1

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During the summer of 1974, the GAF board of directors became engaged in a dispute with one Betty Batis, a female employee, who claimed to have been the victim of sex discrimination. According to Novotny's complaint, he took up Batis' cause at a subsequent board meeting and expressed the view that GAF had not met its legal obligations with regard to equal employment opportunity.

The other members of the board voted in January 1975 to terminate Novotny's employment with GAF. On the basis of that termination, Novotny promptly filed an unlawful employment practice charge with the EEOC, and was granted a right to sue letter in December of 1976. Claiming that his dismissal was a reprisal for his advocacy of the cause of equal rights for women in the corporation, Novotny then brought the present action against GAF, officers of the company and individual members of the board of directors. 2 Novotny alleged that the retaliatory discharge imposed upon him constituted an infraction of Section 2 of the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, 3 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 4

Pursuant to a motion filed under Rule 12(b)(6), the district court dismissed both of Novotny's claims. Because the individual defendants were employees of a single corporation, the trial judge held that they were legally incapable of conspiring in violation of § 1985(3). And, in the court's view, Title VII offered the plaintiff no protection because Novotny had not been discharged as a result of any involvement in a formal EEOC proceeding.

Novotny's timely appeal brought the case before us.

II. THE CONSPIRACY COUNTS: § 1985(3)

Defendants challenge the plaintiffs' § 1985(3) claim on three grounds. They allege that: (1) as a matter of statutory construction, § 1985(3) confers no redress for grievances such as the one in this case; (2) as a matter of constitutional law, if such redress is provided then § 1985(3) would exceed the powers of Congress; (3) as a matter of definition, officers and directors of a single corporate entity are legally incapable of forming a "conspiracy."

Both in briefs and at oral argument, the parties have occasionally combined discussion of the first and second grounds of objection. However, Congress' intention with respect to the coverage of § 1985(3) is a distinct issue from Congressional power under the Constitution to pass such legislation. Clear analysis therefore requires that the issue of the intended scope of the legislation and its proper construction be examined separately from the question whether such scope is constitutionally authorized. Since defendants' success on the statutory construction issue would obviate the need to explore an unsettled area of constitutional law, we turn first to an examination of the statutory structure.

A. Background: An overview of the History of § 1985(3)

The statute now codified as 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) began its existence as a part of

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Section 2 of the Act of April 20, 1871 (the Ku Klux Klan Act). 5 The 1871 Act was one of several Congressional reactions to the continued violent resistance to Reconstruction in the South. 6 Consideration of the Act was triggered by a message sent to Congress by President Grant on March 23, 1871, warning that "(a) condition of affairs now exits in some States of the Union rendering life and property insecure and the carrying of the mails and the collection of the revenue dangerous," and calling for legislation to remedy this situation. 7 The Congressional response embodied in the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act included the grant of a civil cause of action against those who deprived persons of constitutional rights under color of state law (later codified as 42 U.S.C. § 1983), the authorization of deployment of federal troops and suspension of habeas corpus in certain situations, and the establishment of criminal penalties for conspiracies to obstruct justice and to interfere with "equal protection" or "equal privileges and immunities." In section 2 of the legislation, the predecessor of § 1985(3), Congress also created a cause of action for persons injured by acts done in furtherance of such conspiracies.

With the cooling of Reconstructionist ardor, the reception accorded to the Ku Klux Klan Act in the courts was not a hospitable one. In United States v. Harris, 8 the Supreme Court sustained a demurrer to an indictment, under the Act's conspiracy provisions, of 20 southern whites charged with lynching a black, and declared such criminal penalties unconstitutional as a usurpation of the states' role in protecting liberty and property.

This holding was reaffirmed by Baldwin v. Franks, 9 which granted habeas corpus to a member of a group of Californians who had driven resident Chinese aliens out of town in violation of the treaty rights of the Chinese citizens. While conceding that the federal government might have the power to protect treaty rights through criminal sanctions, the Supreme Court held that since the criminal provisions protected All privileges and immunities they were invalid.

Following Harris and Baldwin, Section 2 of the 1871 Act languished largely unused for seventy years. 10 And in 1952, the Supreme Court further cut back on the statute's apparently broad scope in Collins v. Hardyman. 11 In response to a claim under the civil conspiracy provisions originally contained in the Act, the Court held that the 1871 Act protected only against deprivations of rights brought about by state

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action. 12 There the matter rested until 1971, when the Supreme Court gave new life to the civil conspiracy provisions of the Ku Klux Klan Act (now recodified as 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3)) in Griffin v. Breckenridge. 13

In Griffin, the three black plaintiffs were attacked and beaten on a highway in Mississippi by whites who were under the mistaken impression that their victims were associates of a civil rights worker. The blacks brought suit against their assailants under § 1985(3), claiming to have been deprived of various privileges and immunities under the laws of the United States and the State of Mississippi, including the rights of free speech, assembly, association, movement, liberty and security of their persons. The suit was dismissed in the district court, and on the basis of Collins the Court of Appeals reluctantly sustained the dismissal. The Supreme Court, however, reversed.

First the Court explained that the constitutional difficulties which shaped the result in Collins twenty years earlier had been dissipated by intervening cases. It then held that, at least in a situation where the right to interstate travel is implicated or where a federal power to abolish the badges and incidents of slavery under the Thirteenth Amendment can be invoked, no state action is required to establish the constitutional power to regulate private activity. 14 The Court proceeded to examine the legislative history of § 1985(3), and, finding no reason to decline to accord the terms of the statute their full sweep, sustained the plaintiffs' claim.

Nonetheless, Griffin expressed sensitivity to the potential that the expansive syntax of § 1985(3) would give rise to a "general federal tort law." To guard against...

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167 practice notes
  • Dooley v. City of Philadelphia, CIVIL ACTION NO. 99-2764 (E.D. Pa. 6/4/2001), CIVIL ACTION NO. 99-2764.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • 4 Junio 2001
    ...what the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled actionable under § 1985 in Novotny v. Great American Federal Sav. & Loan Assoc., 584 F.2d 1235 (3d Cir. 1978), vacated on other grounds, 442 U.S. 366, 99 S.Ct. 2345 (1979), a case relied upon by the defendants. See Robison, 848 F.2d at 4......
  • Great American Federal Savings Loan Association v. Novotny, No. 78-753
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • 11 Junio 1979
    ...be the basis for a cause of action under § 1985(3). Cf. Brown v. GSA, 425 U.S. 820, 96 S.Ct. 1961, 48 L.Ed.2d 402. Pp. 370-378. 3 Cir., 584 F.2d 1235, vacated and remanded. Eugene K. Connors, Pittsburgh, Pa., for petitioners. Stanley M. Stein, Pittsburgh, Pa., for respondent. Lawrence G. Wa......
  • Scott v. Moore, No. 870
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • 1 Julio 1982
    ...to decide whether federal statutory rights are protected by § 1985(3). See Novotny v. Great American Federal Savings & Loan Ass'n, 584 F.2d 1235 (3d Cir. 1978), rev'd, 442 U.S. 366, 99 S.Ct. 2345, 60 L.Ed.2d 957 (1979) (violations of Title VII). Cf. McLellan, 545 F.2d 919 (5th Cir. 1977) (r......
  • Jenkins v. Miller, Case No. 2:12–CV–184.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. District of Vermont
    • 24 Octubre 2013
    ...965, 969 (9th Cir.1982) (gender); Ward v. Connor, 657 F.2d 45, 48 (4th Cir.1981) (religion); Novotny v. Great Am. Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 584 F.2d 1235, 1241 (3d Cir.1978) (en banc) (gender), vacated on other grounds, 442 U.S. 366, 99 S.Ct. 2345, 60 L.Ed.2d 957 (1979); Cameron v. Brock, 473......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
166 cases
  • Dooley v. City of Philadelphia, CIVIL ACTION NO. 99-2764 (E.D. Pa. 6/4/2001), CIVIL ACTION NO. 99-2764.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • 4 Junio 2001
    ...what the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled actionable under § 1985 in Novotny v. Great American Federal Sav. & Loan Assoc., 584 F.2d 1235 (3d Cir. 1978), vacated on other grounds, 442 U.S. 366, 99 S.Ct. 2345 (1979), a case relied upon by the defendants. See Robison, 848 F.2d at 4......
  • Great American Federal Savings Loan Association v. Novotny, No. 78-753
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • 11 Junio 1979
    ...be the basis for a cause of action under § 1985(3). Cf. Brown v. GSA, 425 U.S. 820, 96 S.Ct. 1961, 48 L.Ed.2d 402. Pp. 370-378. 3 Cir., 584 F.2d 1235, vacated and remanded. Eugene K. Connors, Pittsburgh, Pa., for petitioners. Stanley M. Stein, Pittsburgh, Pa., for respondent. Lawrence G. Wa......
  • Scott v. Moore, No. 870
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • 1 Julio 1982
    ...to decide whether federal statutory rights are protected by § 1985(3). See Novotny v. Great American Federal Savings & Loan Ass'n, 584 F.2d 1235 (3d Cir. 1978), rev'd, 442 U.S. 366, 99 S.Ct. 2345, 60 L.Ed.2d 957 (1979) (violations of Title VII). Cf. McLellan, 545 F.2d 919 (5th Cir. 1977) (r......
  • Jenkins v. Miller, Case No. 2:12–CV–184.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. District of Vermont
    • 24 Octubre 2013
    ...965, 969 (9th Cir.1982) (gender); Ward v. Connor, 657 F.2d 45, 48 (4th Cir.1981) (religion); Novotny v. Great Am. Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 584 F.2d 1235, 1241 (3d Cir.1978) (en banc) (gender), vacated on other grounds, 442 U.S. 366, 99 S.Ct. 2345, 60 L.Ed.2d 957 (1979); Cameron v. Brock, 473......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Ending Political Discrimination in the Workplace.
    • United States
    • Missouri Law Review Vol. 87 Nbr. 2, March 2022
    • 22 Marzo 2022
    ...F.3d 1119, 1127 (10th Cir. 1994); Stathos v. Bowden, 728 F.2d 15, 20-21 (1st Cir. 1984); Novtony v. Great Am. Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 584 F.2d 1235, 1256-59 & n.121 (3d Cir. 1978), vacated on other grounds, 442 U.S. 366 The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has not reached a conclusion ......

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