Walker v. Mortham, No. 95-2898

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore TJOFLAT, DUBINA and CARNES; TJOFLAT; CARNES
Citation158 F.3d 1177
Parties78 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. (BNA) 573, 12 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. C 193 Diann WALKER, Charles Stewart, Dorothy Roberts, Barbara King, Pearlie Williams, Louvenia Jones, Rosa Henderson, Delores Colston, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. Sandra MORTHAM, Secretary of State, Defendant-Appellee.
Decision Date28 October 1998
Docket NumberNo. 95-2898

Page 1177

158 F.3d 1177
78 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. (BNA) 573,
12 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. C 193
Diann WALKER, Charles Stewart, Dorothy Roberts, Barbara
King, Pearlie Williams, Louvenia Jones, Rosa
Henderson, Delores Colston, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
Sandra MORTHAM, Secretary of State, Defendant-Appellee.
No. 95-2898.
United States Court of Appeals,
Eleventh Circuit.
Oct. 28, 1998.

Page 1179

Jerry G. Traynham, Tallahassee, FL, P. Kent Spriggs, Spriggs & Johnson, Tallahassee, FL, for Plaintiffs-Appellants.

Richard M. Dunn, Mitchell Widom, Rubin, Baum, Levin, Constant, Friedman & Bilzin, Miami, FL, for Defendant-Appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida.

Before TJOFLAT, DUBINA and CARNES, Circuit Judges.

TJOFLAT, Circuit Judge:

Black employees and applicants for employment with the State of Florida brought suit against the State and its Secretary of State under 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. (Title VII), 1 claiming that the State had engaged in a pattern and practice of unlawful racial discrimination in its employment decisions. The case was certified as a class action, but then decertified for inadequacy of representation. After a non-jury trial on the merits of the individual plaintiffs' claims, the district court entered final judgment in favor of the defendants on all counts, assuming that every plaintiff had proven a prima facie case of discrimination, but finding that none of the plaintiffs had carried the ultimate burden of proving discrimination in light of the defendants' asserted nondiscriminatory reasons for the challenged employment decisions. Plaintiffs then appealed to this court. We reversed and remanded, holding that the defendants had not articulated a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for any of their challenged employment decisions, and therefore directing the district court to determine for each claim whether the plaintiff had established a prima facie case of discrimination. See Increase Minority Participation by Affirmative Change Today of Northwest Florida, Inc. (IMPACT) v. Firestone, 893 F.2d 1189 (11th Cir.1990) ("IMPACT "). On remand, the district court held that none of the plaintiffs had established a prima facie case with respect to any claim, and again entered judgment in favor of the defendants on all counts.

Plaintiffs now appeal the district court's judgment on remand, claiming that the district court failed to comply with this court's mandate and with the law of the case. Because we conclude that the district court applied incorrect legal standards in deciding whether the plaintiffs had established prima facie cases, we undertake the task ourselves. 2

Page 1180

We vacate the court's judgment in part and affirm in part, remanding the case to the district court with directions.

I.

This case was brought in 1979 as a class action in the District Court for the Northern District of Florida. The named plaintiffs--a non-profit organization ("IMPACT"), 3 black employees of Florida's Department of State (the "Department"), and black former applicants for employment with the Department--brought suit on behalf of "all past, present, and potential black employees" against the State and the then-Secretary of State, George Firestone, 4 alleging racial discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and Title VII. 5 The plaintiffs claimed that the State had engaged in a pattern and practice of employment discrimination, carried out by a cadre of white supervisors who conducted discriminatory subjective evaluations. The plaintiffs sought equitable relief, including reinstatement, hiring, back pay, front pay, seniority compensation, and fees and costs.

On November 7, 1980, the district court entered an order, pursuant to Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, certifying a class in the case consisting of "all past, present and future black persons employed by the Florida Department of State and all past, present and future black applicants for employment with the Florida Department of State." The case then proceeded as a certified class action. Following protracted discovery disputes, the plaintiffs filed an "emergency motion" to suspend the pre-trial schedule. In that motion, the plaintiffs stated that, because the defendants had repeatedly refused to comply with the plaintiffs' discovery requests, plaintiffs' counsel would be "financially and physically unable to adequately represent the interests of the certified class" if the court did not grant plaintiffs immediate relief from the defendants' recalcitrance. Based on the quoted representation by the plaintiffs, the district court held a hearing regarding the continued ability of the named plaintiffs and of plaintiffs' counsel adequately to represent the class under Rule 23(a)(4). Following the hearing, the court decertified the class based on financial inability.

The case then proceeded toward trial on the individual plaintiffs' claims. The court entered numerous pretrial orders, including an order stating that "defendants need not include [in their discoverable evidence] any information concerning employment tests; such tests are not an issue in this case."

Non-jury trial commenced April 1, 1986. At trial, the court heard the claims of eleven individual plaintiffs, 6 each alleging racial discrimination

Page 1181

in hiring or promotion and proceeding on both disparate treatment and disparate impact theories. At the close of the plaintiffs' case in chief, the court, in response to oral motions by defendants' counsel, 1) dismissed all disparate impact claims, 2) dismissed all claims brought by plaintiff Gracie Holton, and 3) dismissed plaintiff Charles Stewart's claim based on the Department's failure to hire him to the position of Regional Representative. 7

On August 11, 1986, the district court entered an order detailing its findings of fact and conclusions of law regarding the evidence presented at trial. The court assumed that each plaintiff had established a prima facie case of discrimination, but found that the defendants had produced evidence of legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for the employment decisions challenged by the plaintiffs, and that the plaintiffs had failed to show they had been discriminated against despite that evidence. It therefore entered judgment for the defendants on all counts on October 3, 1986.

The plaintiffs appealed to this court, claiming, inter alia, that the court had erred by 1) eliminating testing evidence from the scope of discovery; 2) dismissing plaintiff Gracie Holton's claims; 3) decertifying the class and denying the plaintiffs' motion to recertify; and (most importantly for the purposes of the present appeal) 4) determining that defendants had carried their burden of production under Texas Department of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 101 S.Ct. 1089, 67 L.Ed.2d 207 (1981). With regard to the last issue, the plaintiffs argued that the defendants themselves had articulated no legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for their employment decisions, and that the court had impermissibly substituted its own reasons as support for its judgment against the plaintiffs. We issued an opinion addressing the plaintiffs' claims on February 6, 1990. See IMPACT, 893 F.2d at 1189.

In IMPACT, we held, in relevant part, that the defendants indeed had failed to carry their burden under Burdine, see IMPACT, 893 F.2d at 1193-94; 8 thus, we concluded

Page 1182

that the district court had erred in its judgment with regard to all claims. We therefore reversed and remanded with directions that the district court make specific findings with regard to the prima facie strength of each plaintiff's claim. See id. at 1194-95. We also held in IMPACT that the district court had erred in precluding pretrial discovery of employment testing evidence, and that the district court had incorrectly dismissed plaintiff Holton's claims at trial. See id. at 1196-97. Finally, we stated that the issue of recertification would "remain open for consideration by the trial court on remand." Id. at 1196.

On remand, the district court stated that each plaintiff seeking to establish a prima facie case was required to prove the following four elements:

1) The plaintiff was a member of a protected class;

2) The plaintiff applied for and was qualified for the position in question;

3) A person not a member of the protected class with equal or lesser qualifications received the position, and;

4) The adverse employment action complained of was actually taken against him.

The court concluded that none of the plaintiffs had succeeded in establishing a prima facie case under these criteria with respect to any of their claims; therefore, no plaintiff was entitled to judgment in his or her favor. The court then concluded that, because no plaintiff had succeeded on his or her individual claim, the issue of recertification was moot. Finally, the court held that because there existed no certified class, and because it had dismissed all disparate impact claims before trial, employment testing evidence was irrelevant. Having disposed of all issues included in our IMPACT mandate, the district court entered judgment, on May 22, 1995, against every plaintiff save Gracie Holton (now named Gracie Dejerinette). 9

The plaintiffs now appeal that judgment, claiming that the district court erred on remand in 1) finding that none of the plaintiffs had established a prima facie case of discrimination at trial, 2) refusing to allow plaintiffs to pursue their claims concerning employment tests, and 3) refusing to recertify the class. We consider these claims in turn.

In part II.A, we conclude that the district court misapplied the law when evaluating the prima facie strength of most of the plaintiffs' claims; thus, we hold that the court erred in entering judgment for the defendants on those claims. We then look to the record ourselves to determine whether any of...

To continue reading

Request your trial
272 practice notes
  • Anderson v. Dunbar Armored, Inc., Civil Action File No. 1:08-CV-3639-BBM.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Georgia
    • August 18, 2009
    ...F.3d at 1564 (11th Cir.1997). However, "although this burden is not onerous, . . . neither is it a mere formality." Walker v. Mortham, 158 F.3d 1177, 1184 (11th Cir. 1998) (quoting Burdine, 450 U.S. at 253, 101 S.Ct. 1089). At this stage, a defendant-employer clearly set forth, through the ......
  • Wright v. Southland Corp., No. 97-3458
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • September 3, 1999
    ...adverse employment action, qualifications, and differential treatment), unlawful discrimination is presumed. See Walker v. Mortham, 158 F.3d 1177, 1183 (11th Cir.1998). The defendant-employer can rebut this presumption only by articulating a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason (or reasons)......
  • State v. Kitchens, No. 18421.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • January 5, 2011
    ...consequence from other facts, or a state of facts, already proved or admitted." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Walker v. Mortham, 158 F.3d 1177, 1183 n. 10 (11th Cir.1998), cert. denied, 528 U.S. 809, 120 S.Ct. 39, 145 L.Ed.2d 36 (1999); see also State v. Fermaint, 91 Conn.App. 650, 66......
  • Morgan v. Cnty. Comm'n of Lawrence Cnty., Civil Action No. 5:14-CV-01823-CLS
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Alabama
    • June 20, 2016
    ...of her claims must be viewed through the familiar McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting analytical framework. See, e.g., Walker v. Mortham, 158 F.3d 1177, 1193 (11th Cir. 1998) (observing that "a Title VII plaintiff cannot succeed in proving that she was intentionally discriminated against if s......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
272 cases
  • Anderson v. Dunbar Armored, Inc., Civil Action File No. 1:08-CV-3639-BBM.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Georgia
    • August 18, 2009
    ...F.3d at 1564 (11th Cir.1997). However, "although this burden is not onerous, . . . neither is it a mere formality." Walker v. Mortham, 158 F.3d 1177, 1184 (11th Cir. 1998) (quoting Burdine, 450 U.S. at 253, 101 S.Ct. 1089). At this stage, a defendant-employer clearly set forth, through the ......
  • Wright v. Southland Corp., No. 97-3458
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • September 3, 1999
    ...adverse employment action, qualifications, and differential treatment), unlawful discrimination is presumed. See Walker v. Mortham, 158 F.3d 1177, 1183 (11th Cir.1998). The defendant-employer can rebut this presumption only by articulating a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason (or reasons)......
  • State v. Kitchens, No. 18421.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • January 5, 2011
    ...consequence from other facts, or a state of facts, already proved or admitted." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Walker v. Mortham, 158 F.3d 1177, 1183 n. 10 (11th Cir.1998), cert. denied, 528 U.S. 809, 120 S.Ct. 39, 145 L.Ed.2d 36 (1999); see also State v. Fermaint, 91 Conn.App. 650, 66......
  • Morgan v. Cnty. Comm'n of Lawrence Cnty., Civil Action No. 5:14-CV-01823-CLS
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Alabama
    • June 20, 2016
    ...of her claims must be viewed through the familiar McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting analytical framework. See, e.g., Walker v. Mortham, 158 F.3d 1177, 1193 (11th Cir. 1998) (observing that "a Title VII plaintiff cannot succeed in proving that she was intentionally discriminated against if s......
  • 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