Ford Motor Company v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

PETITIONER: Ford Motor Company
RESPONDENT: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
LOCATION: Turner Turnpike

DOCKET NO.: 81-300
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

CITATION: 458 US 219 (1982)
ARGUED: Apr 20, 1982
DECIDED: Jun 28, 1982

ADVOCATES:
David A. Strauss - on behalf of the Respondent
John R. Wester - on behalf of the Petitioner

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Ford Motor Company v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 20, 1982 in Ford Motor Company v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments next in Ford Motor Company against EEOC.

Mr. Webster, I think you may proceed when you are ready.

John R. Wester:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court, this case is here on certiorari to the Fourth Circuit and presents two issues of employment discrimination law.

The first issue is whether an employer's potential back pay liability to a discrimination claimant continues to accrue after the claimant has rejected the employer's unconditional job offer of employment.

The second issue is whether Ford was improperly required to prove its explanation for its employment decisions in this case.

The resolution of the back pay issue may well affect the handling of almost any employment discrimination case in which an employer finds itself able to offer employment to a discrimination claimant before the determination of the merits of the claim.

The facts essential to the resolution of this issue may be stated briefly.

On July 21, 1971, Judy Judy Gaddis and Rebecca Starr applied to work at the Ford Motor Company's parts warehouse in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Both had recently been laid off from General Motors warehouse, where each had worked for some ten months.

Neither was hired.

Ms. Gaddis then wrote the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and charged that Ford had not hired Ms. Starr or her because they were women.

Neither Ms. Gaddis nor Ms. Starr resumed regular employment again until January of 1973, although Ford did employ both women in its parts warehouse for some six weeks in late 1972.

In July of 1973, seven months after the women had returned to work at General Motors, Ford had a vacancy for a permanent warehouse job, the same job for which Ms. Gaddis and Ms. Starr had initially applied.

That vacancy was the first Ford had had for a permanent position since Ms. Gaddis had charged Ford with employment discrimination.

Ford offered the position first to Ms. Gaddis, and she declined it.

Ford then offered the position to Ms. Starr.

She declined it.

Did that coincide with the filing of charges?

John R. Wester:

No, sir, it occurred some two years after, nearly so, following the filing of--

How long after?

John R. Wester:

--The offers to these claimants occurred some two years following the charges that were filed, nearly two years.

Neither of Ford's offers included seniority or back pay, nor did either offer require Ms. Gaddis or Ms. Starr to abandon any aspect of their discrimination claims against Ford.

Two years later, in July of 1975, the Commission brought this suit.

The district court concluded that Ford had discriminated against Gaddis and Starr when it did not hire them in 1971, and also concluded that Ford's offers in 1973 had no effect on the amount of back pay.

Well, are you saying--

John R. Wester:

Ford's back pay.

--Are you saying that when the offer of reinstatement was made, it was rejected out of hand?

John R. Wester:

I am saying that it was rejected in both cases.

Yes, sir.

With no conditions--