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In certain disparate treatment cases under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 an inference of intent may be drawn from statistical evidence. However, that statistics must be relied on with caution. Though the comparability of wage rates in dissimilar jobs may be relevant to a determination of discriminatory animus, job evaluation studies and comparable worth statistics alone are insufficient to establish the requisite inference of discriminatory motive critical to the disparate treatment theory. The weight to be accorded such statistics is determined by the existence of independent corroborative evidence of discrimination.
In this class action affecting approximately 15,500 of its employees, the State of Washington was sued in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington. The class comprises state employees who have worked or do work in job categories that are or have been at least seventy percent female. The action was commenced for the class members by two unions, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE). In all of the proceedings to date and in the opinion which follows, the plaintiffs are referred to as AFSCME. The district court found the State discriminated on the basis of sex in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § § 2000 e-2(a) (1982), by compensating employees in jobs where females predominate at lower rates than employees in jobs where males predominate, if these jobs, though dissimilar, were identified by certain studies to be of comparable worth. The State appealed.
Was a violation of Title VII established?
The court reversed the trial court's finding that the State of Washington discriminated against appellees, female employees, on the basis of sex in violation of § 703(a) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000 e-2(a), by compensating employees in jobs where females predominated at lower rates than employees in jobs where males predominated. The court concluded that a violation of Title VII was not established because appellees failed to prove liability under disparate impact or disparate treatment theories. The court rejected appellees' disparate impact argument because the case did not involve an employment practice that yielded to disparate impact analysis but revolved around a compensation system which resulted from surveys, agency hearings, administrative recommendations, budget proposals, executive actions, and legislative enactments. The court concluded that appellees failed to prove a prima facie case of sex discrimination by a preponderance of the evidence, and they failed to establish the requisite element of intent by either circumstantial or direct evidence.