Albemarle Paper Company v. Moody

PETITIONER: Albemarle Paper Company, et al.
RESPONDENT: Joseph P. Moody, et al.
LOCATION: Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina

DOCKET NO.: 74-389
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

CITATION: 422 US 405 (1975)
ARGUED: Apr 14, 1975
DECIDED: Jun 25, 1975
GRANTED: Dec 16, 1974

Francis V. Lowden, Jr. - for the petitioners in 74-389
J. Levonne Chambers - for the respondents
James P. Turner - for the United States as amicus curiae
Warren Woods - for the petitioner in 74-428

Facts of the case

The respondents represent a class of current and past employees of the Albemarle Paper Co. paper mill in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, who claimed to have suffered from racially discriminatory hiring and promoting practices. In 1966, after filing a race discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the respondents sued Albemarle Paper Co. and the plant’s labor union, Halifax Local 425, and sought permanent injunctive relief against any plant “policy, practice, custom, or usage” that violates Title VII of the Equal Employment Opportunity Act. In 1970, the plaintiffs moved to add a class demand for backpay.

At trial, the court found that the plant’s seniority system was racially segregated and ordered the plant to implement a new system. The court did not award backpay because the company did not act in bad faith and respondents added the demand four years after the action was initiated. The court also did not enjoin Albemarle’s use of pre-employment tests. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed and held that the district court should have awarded backpay and enjoined the use of the pre-employment tests.


(1) Should the district court have awarded backpay?

(2) Can an employer avoid suits under the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972 by proving that discriminatory hiring tests are job-related?

Media for Albemarle Paper Company v. Moody

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 14, 1975 in Albemarle Paper Company v. Moody

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 25, 1975 in Albemarle Paper Company v. Moody

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the Court in 74-389, Albemarle Paper Company against Moody, and 74-428, a consolidated case, Halifax Local against Moody will be announced by Mr. Justice Stewart.

Potter Stewart:

These cases are here by way of a writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

The respondents who are a certified class of present and former employees brought this action against the petitioners, their employer, the Albemarle Paper Company and the other petitioner, the employee's union, seeking injunctive relief against "any policy, practice, custom or usage" at the plant which was violative of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, and after several years of discovery moved to add a class backpay demand in that lawsuit -- in this lawsuit.

At the trial, the major issues were the plant's seniority system, its program of employment testing, and the question of backpay.

The District Court found that, following a reorganization under a new collective-bargaining agreement, the Negro employees had been "locked' in the lower paying job classifications," and ordered the petitioners to implement a system of plantwide seniority.

The District Court refused, however, to order backpay for losses sustained by the plaintiff class under the discriminatory system on two grounds.

First, that Albemarle, that is the employer's breach of Title VII was not in bad faith.

And second, that the plaintiffs, the respondents here, who had initially disclaimed interest in backpay, had delayed making their backpay claim until five years after the complaint was filed, thereby prejudicing the employer and the labor union.

The Court also refused to enjoin or even to limit Albemarle's testing program, which the respondents -- plaintiffs had contended had a disproportionate adverse impact on Negros and was not shown to be related to job performance.

The Court concluding that "personnel tests administered at the plant have undergone validation studies and have proven to be job related."

The plaintiffs -- respondents here appealed on the backpay and the pre-employment tests issues.

The Court of Appeals decided in their favor and reversed the District Court's judgment.

Today we hold that given a finding of unlawful discrimination, backpay should be denied only for reasons that, if applied generally, would not frustrate the central statutory purpose manifested by Congress in enacting Title VII of eradicating discrimination throughout the economy and making persons whole for injuries suffered through past discrimination.

We hold further that the absence of bad faith is not a sufficient reason for denying backpay since Title VII is not concerned with the employer's "good intent or absence of discriminatory intent," but rather "Congress intended the thrust of the Act to be -- to the -- be the consequences of employment practices and not simply the motivation."

That as we understand it is the teaching of the case of Griggs against Duke Power Company reported in Volume 401 of the United States Reports.

Whether the respondents' lateness -- tardiness and inconsistency in making their backpay demand in this lawsuit were excusable and whether they actually prejudiced the petitioners by that delay and inconsistency are matters that will be open to review by the Court of Appeals if the District Court, on remand, decides again to decline a backpay award.

As we concluded that it's clear from the opinion in the Griggs case in 401 U.S. and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Guidelines for employees seeking to determine -- for employers rather, seeking to determine through professional validation studies whether employment tests are job related, such tests are impermissible unless shown, by professionally acceptable methods, to be "predictive of or significant -- significantly correlated with important elements of work behavior which comprise or are relevant to the job or jobs for which the applicants or candidates are being evaluated."

Measured against those standards, Albemarle's validation studies in this case were materially defective in several respects all of which are described in detail in the written opinion filed today with the clerk.

But in view of the facts that during the appellate stages of this litigation Albemarle has apparently been amending its departmental organization and the use made of its tests.

And in view further of the fact that issues of standards of proof for job relatedness and of evidentiary procedures involving validation tests have not until this case been clarified and that provisional use of tests pending new validation efforts may be authorized.

The District Court on remand should initially fashion the necessary relief.

And accordingly, we vacate the judgment before us in this case and remand it to the District Court for further proceedings consistent with Court's written opinion filed with the clerk today.

Mr. Justice Marshall and Mr. Justice Rehnquist while joining the opinion of the Court have each filed separate concurring opinions.

Mr. Justice Blackmun has filed an opinion concurring only in the judgment of the Court.

The Chief Justice has filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part.

And Mr. Justice Powell took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you Mr. Justice Stewart.