DOCKET NO.: 75-718
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
CITATION: 431 US 395 (1977)
ARGUED: Jan 10, 1977
DECIDED: May 31, 1977
Edward W. Penshorn –
Richard C. Hotvedt – for petitioners
Vilma S. Martinez – for respondents Rodriguez et al.
William Baab –
Media for East Texas Motor Freight System, Inc. v. Rodriguez
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – May 31, 1977 in East Texas Motor Freight System, Inc. v. Rodriguez
Warren E. Burger:
I am also authorized to announce the opinion and judgment of the Court in Number 75-718, East Texas Motor Freight System Incorporated versus Rodriguez and others, together with two other cases, related cases.
This case, like the previous one, involved alleged employment discrimination on the part of an employer and unions in the trucking industry.
Three Mexican-American city drivers brought this lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, claiming that the employer and the union’s no transfer rule and seniority system were discriminatory.
The District Court held against them, finding that the company’s policies were neutrally applied and proper business practices and that the plaintiffs have not been discriminated against in any way.
Further, it is found that because of their poor driving records and for other reasons, none of the plaintiffs could satisfy the qualifications for a line driver job.
Although the plaintiffs have brought their complaint as a class action, they had never moved for certification of a class and had stipulated that the trial concerned only their individual claims.
For these and other reasons, the District Court ruled that a class action was inappropriate.
The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed discounting the reasons relied upon by the District Court.
The Court of Appeals itself certified a class and imposed class wide liability on the employer and the unions.
We granted the defendant’s petitions for certiorari and a written opinion filed the day with the clerk, we vacate the judgment of the Court of Appeals.
A plaintiff is not entitled to bring a class action, unless he as himself a member of the class he purports to represent.
In this case, the District Court found upon abundant evidence that the plaintiffs lack the qualifications to be hired as line drivers.
Furthermore, each has stipulated that he had not been discriminated against when he was first hired by the employer.
These facts showed that the plaintiffs were not class members and therefore, not proper class representatives.
The judgment of the Court of Appeals is vacated and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this Court’s written opinion filed today with the clerk.