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Albemarle Paper Co. v. Moody

Supreme Court of the United States

Argued April 14, 1975 ; June 25, 1975 1 

No. 74-389


 [*408]  [****7]  [***291]  [**2367]     MR. JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

These consolidated cases raise two important questions under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 78 Stat. 253, as amended by the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, 86 Stat. 103, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (1970 ed. and Supp. III): First: When employees or applicants for employment have lost the opportunity to earn wages because an employer has engaged in an unlawful discriminatory employment practice, what standards should a federal district court follow in deciding whether to award or deny backpay? Second: What must an employer show to establish that pre-employment tests racially discriminatory in effect, though not in intent, are sufficiently "job related" to survive challenge under Title VII?

The respondents -- plaintiffs in the District Court -- are a certified class of present and former Negro employees at a paper mill in Roanoke Rapids, N.C.; the petitioners -- defendants in the District Court -- are the plant's owner, the Albemarle Paper Co., and the plant employees' labor union, Halifax Local No. 425. 3 In August 1966, after filing a complaint with [****8]  the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and receiving notice of their right to sue, 4 the  [*409]  respondents brought a class action in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, asking permanent injunctive relief against "any policy, practice, custom or usage" at the plant that violated Title VII. The respondents assured the court that the suit involved no claim for any monetary awards on a class basis, but in June  [***292]  1970, after several years of discovery, the respondents moved to add a class demand for backpay. The court ruled that this issue would be considered at trial.

 [****9]   At the trial, in July and August 1971, the major issues were the plant's seniority system, its program of employment testing, and the question of backpay. In its opinion of November 9, 1971, the court found that the petitioners had "strictly segregated" the plant's departmental "lines of progression" prior to January 1, 1964, reserving the higher paying and more skilled lines for whites. The "racial identifiability" of whole lines of progression persisted until 1968, when the lines were reorganized under a new collective-bargaining agreement. The court found, however, that this reorganization left Negro employees "locked' in the lower paying job classifications." The formerly "Negro" lines  [**2368]  of progression had been merely tacked on to the bottom of the formerly "white" lines, and promotions, demotions, and layoffs continued to be governed -- where skills were "relatively equal" -- by a system of "job seniority." Because of the plant's previous history of overt segregation, only whites had seniority in the higher job categories. Accordingly, the court ordered the petitioners to implement a system of "plantwide" seniority.

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422 U.S. 405 *; 95 S. Ct. 2362 **; 45 L. Ed. 2d 280 ***; 1975 U.S. LEXIS 111 ****; 10 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 1181; 9 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P10,230



Disposition: The judgment was vacated and remanded. The district court improperly reasoned that petitioners' lack of bad faith was sufficient reason for denying backpay, but the issue was remanded for determination of whether respondents' delay in requesting backpay was prejudicial. The court also remanded for determination of whether the pre-employment tests properly justified their discriminatory impact.


tests, backpay, title vii, district court, lines, progression, skilled, Guidelines, plant, validation, employees, court of appeals, circumstances, backpay award, backpay, equitable, groupings, cases, validation study, bad faith, injunctive, rights, discriminatory, promotion, seniority, courts, employment practice, relatedness, purposes, damages

Business & Corporate Compliance, Protection of Rights, Federally Assisted Programs, Civil Rights Act of 1964, Civil Rights Law, Procedural Matters, Claim Accrual, Labor & Employment Law, Title VII Discrimination, Remedies, Affirmative & Equitable Relief, Discrimination, General Overview, Federal Versus State Law, Exhaustion Doctrine, Labor & Employment Law, Affirmative Action, Court & Government Imposed Plans, Injunctions, Racial Discrimination, Collective Bargaining & Labor Relations, Unfair Labor Practices, Damages, Backpay, Civil Procedure, Pleading & Practice, Pleadings, Rule Application & Interpretation, Criminal Law & Procedure, Standards of Review, Clearly Erroneous Review, Appeals, Clearly Erroneous Review, Abuse of Discretion, Preemployment Practices, Preemployment Practices