Dothard v. Rawlinson

PETITIONER: E.C. Dothard, Director, Dept. of Public Safety of Alabama
RESPONDENT: Dianne Rawlinson et al.
LOCATION: Alabama Department of Corrections

DOCKET NO.: 76-422
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT:

CITATION: 433 US 347 (1977)
DECIDED: Jun 27, 1977
ARGUED: Apr 19, 1977
GRANTED: Nov 29, 1976

ADVOCATES:
G. Daniel Evans - for the appellants, pro hac vice, by special leave of Court
Pamela S. Horowitz - for the appellees, pro hac vice, by special leave of Court

Facts of the case

Dianne Rawlinson applied to be a prison guard with the Alabama Department of Corrections. The Department had a minimum height and weight requirement of 120 pounds and 5 feet 2 inches. Rawlinson did not meet the minimum weight requirement, so the Department refused to hire her. Rawlinson sued on behalf of herself and all similarly-situated women under Title VII, alleging sex discrimination. While this suit was pending, the Alabama Board of Corrections adopted a rule banning women from working in “contact positions” that require close physical proximity to inmates. Rawlinson amended her complaint to challenge the new rule as well. The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama ruled in favor of Rawlinson. The U.S. Supreme Court heard this case on direct appeal.

Question

(1) Do the height and weight requirements violate Title VII?

(2) Does the ban on women in “contact positions” violate Title VII?

Media for Dothard v. Rawlinson

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 19, 1977 in Dothard v. Rawlinson

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 27, 1977 in Dothard v. Rawlinson

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion in 76-422, Dothard against Rawlinson will also be announced by Mr. Justice Stewart.

Potter Stewart:

This case comes to us on direct appeal from a three-judge Federal District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.

The appellee, Dianne Rawlinson sought employment as a prison guard with the Alabama Board of Corrections and her application for employment and that job was rejected.

She then brought this class suit alleging that she had been denied employment because of her sex in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended.

The Board of Corrections follows two employment policies that the District Court concluded do violate Title VII.

By statute, Alabama requires that every prison guard must be at least 5’2” tall and weigh at least 120 pounds.

The District Court found that the statutory criteria disproportionately exclude women from employment and that the State had failed to offer any evidence that the height and weight standards are job-related.

Secondly, by an official regulation, the State has established a policy of not hiring any women as guards in so-called contact positions in all male maximum security penitentiaries, whatever the height or weight of the women guards might be.

The District Court held that these regulations explicit discrimination on the basis of sex was not justified under the bona-fide-occupational-qualification exception contained in Title VII.

In an opinion filed with the clerk today, we affirmed the District Court's invalidation of the height and weight requirements but reversed its invalidation of the official regulation.

The District Court properly relied on national height and weight statistics showing that 41% of the female population and less than 1% of the male population would be excluded from any prison guard employment under Alabama statutory height and weight standards.

The State failed to rebut this prima facie case by demonstrating either deficiencies in the statistical data or that the height and weight standards are job-related.

Secondly, we agree with the District Court that Titles VII bona-fide-occupational-qualification exception is an extremely narrow exception to the acts general prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sex.

On the facts of this case, however, we conclude that the explicit gender discrimination and the official regulation is within the statutory exception.

Alabama's all male maximum security prisons are so violent and disorganized that sexual attacks on women guards are likely both to occur and to exacerbate the problem of maintaining institutional security.

In these circumstances, we conclude that being male is a bona -- is a bona-fide-occupational-qualification for the job of guard in a contact position in Alabama's all male maximum security penitentiaries.

I am authorized to say that Mr. Justice Rehnquist has filed an opinion joining only part of the Court's opinion and concurring in the judgment, an opinion in which the Chief Justice and Mr. Justice Blackmun have joined.

Mr. Justice Marshall joined by Mr. Justice Brennan has filed an opinion dissenting in part and Mr. Justice White has also filed a dissenting opinion.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you, Mr. Justice Stewart.