Trout v. Garrett

Decision Date27 November 1991
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 73-0055 (HHG).
Citation780 F. Supp. 1396
PartiesYvonne G. TROUT, et al., Plaintiffs, v. H. Lawrence GARRETT, III, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Columbia

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Bradley G. McDonald, John F. Karl, Jr., McDonald & Karl, Washington, D.C., for plaintiffs.

Thomas S. Rees, Asst. U.S. Atty., Washington, D.C. (Matthew J. Wheeler, Karen McCoy, Richard D. Hipple, Daniel E. O'Connell, Jr., Attys., Office of the General Counsel, U.S. Dept. of the Navy, of counsel), for defendants.

OPINION

HAROLD H. GREENE, District Judge.

I Background

This case began in 1973,1 over eighteen years ago, when several complaints charging sex discrimination by the Department of the Navy in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were filed in this Court.2 The Court consolidated the complaints, and it certified a class of plaintiffs consisting of civilian women employees who between June 6, 1972 and June 4, 1979 worked for an agency of the Department of the Navy originally called NAVCOSSACT3 and later NARDAC4 (sometimes collectively referred to herein as NARDAC), the Navy's computer operations center. At a two-week trial, forty-two witnesses were heard, and over 7,500 pages of exhibits were admitted. The Court ultimately decided that plaintiffs had proved discrimination by the Navy against the class in violation of Title VII. Trout v. Hidalgo, 517 F.Supp. 873 (D.D.C.1981).

The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision on liability but reversed part of the conclusions drawn by this Court from the parties' statistical evidence. Specifically, the Court of Appeals held that (1) Title VII liability could not be based upon the continuing effects of discrimination occurring prior to March 24, 1972, and (2) the Navy and its officials were not responsible for discrimination in hiring when the hiring grades and salaries were predetermined by another agency. The Court of Appeals accordingly reversed the trial finding of discrimination in initial grade placements. Trout v. Lehman, 702 F.2d 1094, 1103-05 (D.C.Cir.1983). However, the appellate court also concluded that the evidence created a justifiable inference of discrimination in promotions that had not been rebutted by the Navy,5 and it accordingly upheld this Court's finding of class-wide discrimination in promotions.

The Supreme Court granted certiorari, and it remanded the case for findings of fact on the limited issue of the evidentiary effect of the parties' statistics, in view of the different approaches taken by this Court and the Court of Appeals. Lehman v. Trout, 465 U.S. 1056, 104 S.Ct. 1404, 79 L.Ed.2d 732 (1984). On remand, this Court, following appropriate proceedings in conformity with the appellate decisions, again determined that the Navy was guilty of sex discrimination and liable to the plaintiff class. Trout v. Lehman, 652 F.Supp. 144 (D.D.C.1986). The Court further ruled, in accordance with the Navy's request, that individual hearings would be held for the class members in order to determine their entitlement to relief. Trout v. Webb, 708 F.Supp. 358 (D.D.C.1988).

Due to the anticipated number and complexity of the hearings, the individual claims were referred to a Special Master6 pursuant to Rule 53(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Special Master was also instructed to determine which statistical methodology was most appropriate for use in determining backpay for the individuals.7

Proofs of Claim were filed on behalf of 93 claimants. Notwithstanding the decisions of this Court finding discrimination against the class, the government opposed all but 5 of these claims8 on the basis that the individuals had not been discriminated against. The effect of the Navy's action was to require the 88 remaining individuals to prove discrimination all over again, although, as a matter of law, once a finding of discrimination has been made in favor of the class, individual class members need to make only a minimal showing to be entitled to relief, Pettway v. American Cast Iron Pipe Co., 494 F.2d 211, 259 (5th Cir.1974); Baxter v. Savannah Sugar Refining Corp., 495 F.2d 437, 445 (5th Cir.1974), and a finding in the class' favor is therefore normally accepted by defendants in Title VII litigation with respect to all or all but a few of the class members.

Following briefing and argument, the Special Master ruled on January 11, 1990 that 32 members of the class were entitled to summary judgment on the issue of entitlement to relief pursuant to International Brotherhood of Teamsters v. United States, 431 U.S. 324, 361-62, 97 S.Ct. 1843, 1867-68, 52 L.Ed.2d 396 (1977), which included summary judgment that was granted to the 5 class members whose claims were not contested by the Navy; summary judgment was granted in favor of the Navy in 16 cases where the claimants could not satisfy the initial burden imposed by Teamsters or where the Navy successfully rebutted the plaintiffs' claim; and 10 cases were dismissed where the claimants were found to have opted out of the class. Due to factual ambiguities, the issue of entitlement to relief of the remaining 35 class members was set by the Special Master for individual evidentiary hearings.9

The Special Master thereafter held extensive evidentiary hearings to determine the most appropriate form of regression analysis model to be used in computing backpay relief for those who were entitled to such relief. On March 30, 1990, he issued initial conclusions regarding the form of the regression analyses and he identified areas that required additional examination. On December 27, 1990, the Special Master issued his Second Memorandum and Order on the Most Appropriate Form of Regression Analysis to be Used in Determining Backpay Relief for Class Members (Regression Memorandum II).

Both parties have filed motions requesting that the Court reverse or modify rulings of the Special Master in accordance with their respective objections. All these objections are decided herein pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 53(e).10 The standard of review for the rulings of the Special Master is de novo as to legal questions, and clearly erroneous as to factual issues. See Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers International Union, AFL-CIO v. NLRB, 547 F.2d 575, 580 (D.C.Cir.1976); see also, Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).

II Specific Navy Objections to Special Master Conclusions
A. Discrimination in Grade at Hire

The Navy objects to the Special Master's consideration of cases in which the discrimination allegedly occurred in the particular plaintiff's grade placement at time of hiring. The argument is that athire discrimination was not within the Special Master's jurisdiction or that of this Court because the Court of Appeals, when it reviewed this Court's 1981 finding of class-wide discrimination, limited the liability of the Navy to discrimination in promotions, removing at-hire grade placement as a basis for any of plaintiffs' claims.

This line of argument misconstrues the Court of Appeals decision. As indicated above, the Court of Appeals did rule that discrimination at hire was not, in and of itself, a basis for liability. But as also noted above, the appellate court also concluded, explicitly affirming this Court's prior ruling, that a showing of discrimination at hire is relevant to the issue of whether plaintiffs were equitably promoted by the Navy and may be considered on that issue. See Trout v. Lehman, supra, 702 F.2d at 1105 (quoting Trout v. Hidalgo, 517 F.Supp. at 881, 885).

The Navy's attempt to bypass that appellate ruling ignores the complex fabric of discrimination in which issues such as these are often woven together. It is certainly true that the Navy is not liable for at-hire grade placements made by agencies outside the Department of the Navy. The Special Master did not conclude otherwise. It is also true that the issue of liability must be focused on discrimination in promotions. But where a plaintiff is able to show (1) that her initial placement was in the control of the Navy,11 or (2) that she was placed at a grade level beneath her qualifications, whether by the Navy or by any other executive agency, and the Navy did not thereafter promote her in an equitable manner, discrimination in violation of Title VII may be found. The evidence disclosed and the Special Master found numerous examples in both categories.

To cite just one such occurrence in each group, the evidence showed with respect to initial placement that Brenda J. Weaver was hired by NAVCOSSACT at a GS-9 even though her education and experience qualified her to be a GS-11, because the Director of Personnel of that Navy unit informed her, according to Ms. Weaver's proof of claim, that "a married woman did not need as much money as a GS-11 mathematician was being paid." Special Master Memorandum (January 11, 1990) at 66.

As for discrimination in promotions, the record shows that Patricia H. Fox was rated on the Civil Service Register as a GS-7 computer programmer. Ms. Fox had a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Middleberry College, post-graduate training with IBM, and work experience in computer programming and systems design that consisted of four summers in college and two and one-half years full-time. Although Ms. Fox asserted that the Civil Service improperly rated her as a GS-7 rather than a GS-9 at the time of her hiring, her claim in this litigation was predicated upon the failure of NARDAC subsequently to promote her to GS-9 when her qualifications and work performance warranted such a promotion. Special Master Memorandum (January 11, 1990) at 57.

That these were not isolated examples but typical of the practices at NARDAC is evidenced by the Special Master's detailed findings which are consistent with the general statistical distributions stipulated to by the parties, as shown in...

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