Swint v. Pullman-Standard

Citation17 FEP Cases 730,539 F.2d 77
Decision Date30 August 1976
Docket NumberNo. 74-3726,PULLMAN-STANDARD,74-3726
Parties13 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. 604, 12 Empl. Prac. Dec. P 11,177 Louis SWINT et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v.et al., Defendants-Appellees, Clyde Humphrey, Intervenor.
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)

U. W. Clemon, Birmingham, Ala., Marilyn Holifield, New York City, for plaintiffs-appellants.

John C. Falkenberry, Birmingham, Ala., Michael H. Gottesman, Washington, D. C., for U. S. Steelworkers, and others.

C. V. Stelzenmuller, Birmingham, Ala., Franklin B. Snyder, Chicago, Ill., for Pullman-Standard Inc.

Appeal from the United States District Court for The Northern District of Alabama.

Before COLEMAN, CLARK and GEE, Circuit Judges.

CLARK, Circuit Judge:

This Title VII case raises claims that the very substantial, good faith efforts of the employer and union working together to end racially segregated working practices still fall short of eliminating the present effects of past discrimination for many black workers. The central attack is on a continuation of departmental seniority. The district court after a full hearing prepared

a detailed memorandum opinion reasoning that the steps taken constituted sufficient compliance with Title VII. Principally because that result was based on a prima facie case and other burden of proof concepts which did not fit this case, we vacate the judgment appealed from and reverse for further proceedings, including reconsideration of appropriate backpay and other relief.


Pullman-Standard, a division of Pullman, Inc., is the world's largest manufacturer of railway freight cars and parts. Operations at its Bessemer, Alabama plant are geared to special orders, rather than the production of an inventory, and accordingly are conducted much like a custom steel fabricating shop, though on a larger scale. 2 This method of production, coupled with sporadic market demands from the railroad industry, results in frequent and dramatic fluctuations in the level of employment. 3 Since the early 1940's, most 4 of the production and maintenance workers at Pullman-Standard's Bessemer plant have been represented by the United Steelworkers, which also holds representation status at Pullman-Standard's other three plants; and key provisions dealing with seniority rights are largely covered by local rules at the individual plants rather than by the company-wide triennial collective bargaining contracts.

The production and maintenance jobs at Pullman-Standard, over a hundred in number, 5, are divided among 25 different United Steelworkers departments of varying sizes. 6 In addition to these departments there are two Machinist Union departments and an additional United Steelworkers department having only one employee. All assignments to departments are made by Pullman-Standard. Each job has a specified job class (JC) level, which determines its relative ranking in base pay in comparison to other jobs. 7 All but two departments, Janitors and Template, have more than one job classification; and most, but not all, classifications will be worked by more than a single employee during peak employment periods. One such job (Welder) sometimes is worked by over 500 employees.

Under the local rules at Pullman-Standard, seniority is measured by continuous service in a particular department and is exercised in competition with all other employees in that department, there being no From the study of payroll information for the 18-month period ending June 1974, it appears that 49.5% of the work force is black, a ratio which is comparable to that which existed in June 1965. 9 Understandably, plaintiffs, do not assert that Pullman's initial hiring policies, as such, are now or ever have been racially discriminatory. 10 Plaintiffs do, however, contend that assignment of new hires to the several departments was discriminatory, and continued so for several years following the passage of Title VII. Further, the plaintiffs contend that prior to June 1965 a number of the better jobs, including supervisory positions, were "white only" and a number of the lower-paying jobs were "black only." Pullman's old records, quite incomplete, do reflect a mixing of the races in some of these jobs in the 1920's and 30's. Nonetheless, it is clear that by the late 40's many of the jobs had become racially segregated, and remained so into the mid-60's, not by formal agreement to that effect, but under a custom and practice which the company condoned, if not approved.

lines of promotion or progression in any department. Seniority rosters are maintained by department; and departmental age is basically the sole criterion used to determine who is rolled back or laid-off in the event of reductions, and who is recalled or promoted (assuming ability to do the work) in the event of force increases or other vacancies, in the department. It is somewhat inappropriate to talk about "permanent jobs" at Pullman-Standard, except perhaps with respect to the most senior employees in the department; for the constant fluctuations in job requirements and employment levels cause frequent movement of employees from one job to another. While the seniority rosters do indicate a job classification for each employee, these designations do not reflect his 8 permanent job, but rather constitute a recognition by the company that the employee has satisfactorily performed the job and is thereby protected under the collective bargaining agreement against rejection in favor of a junior employee on the factor of relative ability. The rosters are updated annually as of June 1st; and frequently only the highest job class which an employee has satisfactorily performed is shown for him.

In early 1965, spurred by an arbitration decision which opened up the then all-white Rivet Driver Job to blacks, 11 the company began implementing a program to eliminate barriers to advancement by blacks and, in general, to conform to the impending requirements of Title VII where possible infractions In May 1972, Pullman-Standard entered into an agreement with the Department of Labor to serve as a corrective action program and to bring its employment practices into compliance with Executive Order 11246 as amended. 15 Of the many provisions in the 25-page OFCC agreement, the most significant to the issues in this case are those relating to interdepartmental transfers. Black employees with employment dates prior to April 30, 1965, are given preference for vacancies arising in the five traditionally all-white departments (Template, Powerhouse, Airbrake Pipe Shop, Inspection, and Plant Protection); and those hired before April 30, 1965, who had been assigned to four "low ceiling" departments (Janitor, Die & Tool, Truck and Steel Miscellaneous) are given preference for vacancies arising in any of the departments. 16 These transfer rights are without limit as to time; and, when exercised, the employee vies for promotions in the new department using his total plant age. For layoff and recall purposes, the employee is given at the time of the transfer the option either to take his plant age into the new department or to keep accruing seniority in his old department while building new age for such purposes in the new department. Retreat rights to the employee's prior job are provided should he fail to qualify for at least a JC 4 job or is disqualified for a promotion in the new department; and in such event the employee may have the right to go to another department rather than return to his original one.

                were detected.  Black buckers and welder helpers were given trials to ascertain their abilities as rivet drivers and welders, respectively.  Beginning in June 1965 black employees were appointed as hourly foremen.  A reporting system of hires and promotions was undertaken, as were efforts to recruit blacks for the more highly skilled positions.  In early 1966, an agreement was made with the union to utilize seniority in the filling of temporary vacancies.  12 Negotiations were commenced in 1968 with the Department of Labor, Office of Federal Contract Compliance (OFCC), which led in January 1969 to a conditional memorandum of understanding (OFCC agreement) designed to enhance opportunities for blacks.  13  Although this memorandum never became fully effective due to lack of union acceptance, Pullman-Standard through its Contract Compliance Officers one black and one white began encouraging black employees in certain "low ceiling" departments to transfer to other departments and monitoring the filling of temporary vacancies to assure a fair allotment to black employees.  Black employees and their families were encouraged to participate in vocational education at the company's expense, a program that has been particularly significant in the training of black welders.  14

The trial court had before it for determination four claims of class discrimination 17 and claims of individual discrimination by two employees. The class issues were:

(1) Does the system of departmental seniority, even with the changes made under the OFCC agreement, perpetuate the effects of past discrimination in the assignment of black employees among the various departments? 18

(2) Has there been discrimination in the assignment of work to persons having the same job title or in the assignment of jobs having the same JC level to the persons entitled to jobs of such JC level?

(3) Has there been discrimination in the promotion of persons to supervisory positions?

(4) Has there been discrimination in the failure to post publicly a list of changes in assignments?

One of the named plaintiffs, Louis Swint, and an intervenor-plaintiff, Clyde Humphrey, each claim that their discharges by the company in May 1971 and November 1972, respectively, were racially motivated or were in retaliation for their having earlier filed charges with the EEOC. 19


The district court upheld the use of departmental seniority at...

To continue reading

Request your trial
61 cases
  • Police Officers for Equal Rights v. CITY OF COL., C-2-78-394.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Southern District of Ohio
    • 8 Enero 1985
    ...procedure which is largely subjective must be closely scrutinized because of its capacity for unlawful bias. Swint v. Pullman Standard, 539 F.2d 77, 105 n. 72 (5th Cir. 1976), rev'd. on other grounds, 456 U.S. 273, 102 S.Ct. 1781, 72 L.Ed.2d 66 (1982) (subjective criteria ready mechanisms f......
  • Pettway v. American Cast Iron Pipe Co., 75-4219
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • 24 Julio 1978
    ...30 supra. It thereby eradicates "the obvious impediment of lowered wages to transfer to a new department." Swint v. Pullman-Standard, 539 F.2d 77, 101 (5th Cir. 1976). See Watkins v. Scott Paper Co., supra, 530 F.2d at 1173-74; Stevenson v. International Paper Co., 516 F.2d 103, 112-13 (5th......
  • Brown v. Middaugh, 96-CV-1097.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of New York
    • 19 Febrero 1999
    ...do not harm a plaintiff economically.12 See Rodriguez v. Board of Education, 620 F.2d 362, 366 (2d Cir.1980); Swint v. Pullman-Standard, 539 F.2d 77, 92 (5th Cir.1976). To establish a prima facie case of discrimination in job assignments, plaintiff must establish: (1) that he belongs to a p......
  • Pouncy v. Prudential Ins. Co. of America, Civ. A. No. 75-H-1877.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
    • 9 Julio 1980
    ...g., Movement for Opportunity, supra; EEOC v. Local 14, Operating Engineers, 553 F.2d 251, 255 (2nd Cir. 1977); Swint v. Pullman-Standard, 539 F.2d 77, 105 (5th Cir. 1976); United States v. Strickland Transportation Co., 17 FEP 1081, 1083 (N.D.Tex.1978); Neloms v. Southwestern Electric Power......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT