Furnco Constr. Corporation v. Waters

PETITIONER: Furnco Constr. Corporation
LOCATION: University Medical Center

DOCKET NO.: 77-369
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

CITATION: 438 US 567 (1978)
ARGUED: Apr 17, 1978
DECIDED: Jun 29, 1978

Joel H. Kaplan - for petitioner
Judson H. Miner - for respondents

Facts of the case

This case study explains a complicated employment conflict that occurred between Franco construction company and eight African-American bricklayers. The latter were looking for a job, and the open vacancies in this particular company seemed perfect for them, yet they were not accepted.

The firm needed to hire people who could professionally refill a blast furnace. Although the applicants were fully qualified for it, Furno rejected their candidacies and hired white bricklayers with similar qualifications. The employer gave the job to the bricklayers whom he knew personally, and in whose qualifications he was sure, but the rejected applicants saw the discrimination in this decision. They have filed suit against Furno stating that the company violated the Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act on the grounds of discrimination.

As it is noted in the case brief, the local District Court decided in favor of the employer. SUch conclusion was based on the fact that the case of discrimination was not proved. The respondent could not persuade the judges of the validity of the issue. Moreover, the actions of Furno were explained as a business necessity.

The Court of Appeals did not agree with such decision. They still thought that the petitioners have failed to rebut the prima facie case, but they did not think that the rejection was motivated by a business necessity. In response to such problem, there was developed more efficient hiring procedure that encompassed a mandatory application review and detailed step-by-step selection process. Such conduct would give more chances to the applicants from minorities to get the job.


Media for Furnco Constr. Corporation v. Waters

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 17, 1978 in Furnco Constr. Corporation v. Waters

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 29, 1978 in Furnco Constr. Corporation v. Waters

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the court in 76-369, Furnco Construction company against Waters will be announced by Mr. Justice Rehnquist.

William H. Rehnquist:

This case comes to us from the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

And the petitioners Franco construction company who is the employer in this Title 7 case.

Frunco contracted to reline a blast furnace in the Chicago area, because of highly specialized nature of the work, the superintendent of the job did not accept applications of the job site but rather hired only brick layers whom he knew to be experienced and competent.

Respondents fully qualified black brick layers were among the brick layers who unsuccessfully applied for employment at the site of the job.

They brought suit claiming employment discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago ruled in favor of the employer holding that the respondents had not proved a case of discrimination under what is called the disparate-treatment theory of McDonnell Douglas corporation against Green, a case we decided several terms ago.

The Court Of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed the judgment in favor of the employer.

It held that the respondents had made out a prima facie case of discrimination and contrary to the findings of the District Court, if the employer had not proved that its hiring practices were justified as a business necessity because the employer could have used alternative hiring practices which would have satisfied its business needs and at the same time allowed it to consider the maximum number of minority applicants.

In an opinion filed today with the clerk we reverse the judgment of the Seventh Circuit.

While the Court Of Appeals was justified in concluding that respondents had made out a prima facie case of discrimination under McDonnell Douglas, the Court's imposition of a hiring method which might have enabled the employer to consider and perhaps, higher, more minority employers, finds no support in either the nature of the prima facie case or the Title VII's purpose.

Courts may not impose such a remedy on an employer at least until a violation of Title VII has been proved.

Mr. Justice Marshall has filed a dissenting opinion in which Mr. Justice Brennan joined.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you Mr. Justice Rehnquist.