Goodman v. Lukens Steel Company

RESPONDENT: Lukens Steel Company
LOCATION: Deseret Gymnasium

DOCKET NO.: 85-1626
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-1987)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

CITATION: 482 US 656 (1987)
ARGUED: Apr 01, 1987
DECIDED: Jun 19, 1987

Robert M. Weinberg - on behalf of the Petitioners in No. 85-2010 and respondent Union in No. 85-1626
William H. Ewing - on behalf of respondents Goodman, et al., in No. 85-2010 and petitioners No. 85-1626

Facts of the case


Media for Goodman v. Lukens Steel Company

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 01, 1987 in Goodman v. Lukens Steel Company

William H. Rehnquist:

We will hear arguments next on two consolidated cases, No. 85-1626, Goodman against Lukens Steel, and No. 85-2010, United Steelworkers against Goodman.

Mr. Weinberg, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Robert M. Weinberg:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court:

This is a class action employment discrimination case brought pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and 42 USC Section 1981.

The defendants in the case were the employer, Lukens Steel Company, and United Steelworkers of America and two of its locals.

In the courts below, plaintiffs prevailed on some but not all of their claims against the employer, and on one of three claims against the union.

The unions and the plaintiffs both petitioned this Court.

Both petitions were granted.

And they've been consolidated for this argument.

The question presented by the union's petition is whether either Title VII or Section 1981 imposes on unions an affirmative duty to combat employer discrimination.

The question presented by the plaintiffs' petition is, what statute of limitations should apply to the 1981 claims... to the Section 1981 claims in this case.

I plan to devote my opening argument to the issue raised in the union's petition, the affirmative duty issue.

My presentation will be in two parts.

I will discuss our legal position, which is quite straightforward.

Basically, our position is that the only duty that Title VII imposes on unions with respect to employer discrimination is the duty not to cause or attempt to cause that discrimination.

That's the duty stated in Section 703(c)(3) of Title VII.

That provision leaves no room for any affirmative duty on the part of the unions to combat employer discrimination.

Likewise as to Section 1981, this Court has already held in General Building Contractors, that the only duty that Section 1981 imposes is the duty not to engage in intention discrimination.

Section 1981 does not impose a duty on any party to combat discrimination by another party.

To interpret either of these statutes to place the affirmative duty on unions to combat employer discrimination would be inconsistent with the role of unions as set forth under our system of labor relations set up by the National Labor Relations Act.

Before I elaborate on these points, I want to address another matter.

Plaintiffs who pleaded and tried this case on the theory of an affirmative duty to combat employer discrimination; who argued the case to the Court of Appeals on that theory, now say that this case doesn't raise the issue.

Plaintiffs are wrong about that, but I think it's worth taking a few minutes to demonstrate why they're wrong, because in the process the legal issues here will be focussed.

Plaintiffs' complaint asserted three claims against the unions.

Two of the claims were claims that the unions themselves had discriminated.

One claim was that the unions had adopted and maintained a discriminatory seniority system; the other was that the unions discriminated in processing grievances.

The district court found for the union on both of those claims.

The third claim that was in Plaintiffs' complaint was based on the affirmative duty theory.

In the words of the complaint, the unions, quote, failed to act affirmatively to cause the employer to refrain from discriminating against black employees because of their race and color.

It was on this theory that the district court found the unions liable.