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Corning Glass Works v. Brennan

Supreme Court of the United States

March 25, 1974, Argued ; June 3, 1974, Decided 1

No. 73-29


 [*190]  [***7]  [**2226]    MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.

  [****5]   These cases arise under the Equal Pay Act of 1963, 77 Stat. 56, § 3, 29 U. S. C. § 206 (d)(1), 3 ] which added to § 6 of the Fair Labor Standards Act  [***8]  of 1938 the principle of equal pay for equal work regardless of sex. The principal question posed is whether Corning Glass Works violated the Act by paying a higher base wage to male night shift inspectors than it paid to female inspectors performing the same tasks on the day shift, where the higher wage was paid in addition to a separate night shift differential paid to all employees for night work. In No. 73-29, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in a case involving several Corning plants in Corning, New York, held that this practice violated  [*191]  the Act. 474 F.2d 226 (1973). In No. 73-695, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in a case involving a Corning plant in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, reached the opposite conclusion. 480 F.2d 1254 (1973). We granted certiorari and consolidated [****6]  the cases to resolve this unusually direct conflict between two circuits. 414 U.S. 1110 (1973). Finding ourselves in substantial agreement with the analysis of the Second Circuit, we affirm in No. 73-29 and reverse in No. 73-695.

 [****7]  I

Prior to 1925, Corning operated its plants in Wellsboro and Corning only during the day, and all inspection work was performed by women. Between 1925 and 1930, the company began to introduce automatic production equipment which made it desirable to institute a night shift. During this period, however, both New York and Pennsylvania law prohibited women from working at night. 4 [****8]  As a result, in order to fill inspector positions on the new night shift, the company had to recruit male employees from among its male dayworkers. The male employees so transferred demanded and received wages substantially higher than those paid to women inspectors engaged on the two day shifts. 5 During this same period, however,  [*192]  no plant-wide shift differential  [**2227]  existed and male employees working at night, other than inspectors, received the same wages as their day shift counterparts. Thus a situation developed where the night inspectors were all male, 6 the day inspectors all female, and the male inspectors received significantly higher wages.

In 1944, Corning plants at both locations were organized by a labor [****9]  union and a collective-bargaining agreement was negotiated for all production and maintenance employees. This agreement for the first time established a plant-wide  [***9]  shift differential, 7 but this change did not eliminate the higher base wage paid to male night inspectors. Rather, the shift differential was superimposed on the existing difference in base wages between male night inspectors and female day inspectors.

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417 U.S. 188 *; 94 S. Ct. 2223 **; 41 L. Ed. 2d 1 ***; 1974 U.S. LEXIS 62 ****; 9 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 919; 74 Lab. Cas. (CCH) P33,078; 7 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P9374



Disposition:  No. 73-29, 474 F.2d 226, affirmed; No. 73-695, 480 F.2d 1254, reversed and remanded.


night, differential, night shift, wages, equal pay, sex, working conditions, employees, day shift, inspection, Hearings, female, base wage, male, rate of wages, seniority, paying, plants, skill, collective-bargaining, hired, retroactively, circle, cases, red, effective date, higher wage, transportation, rates, job classification

Labor & Employment Law, Equal Pay, Equal Pay Act, General Overview, Evidence, Burdens of Proof, Burdens of Proof, Civil Procedure, Defenses, Demurrers & Objections, Affirmative Defenses, Wage & Hour Laws, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation