Lorance v. AT&T Technologies, Inc.

PETITIONER: Lorance
RESPONDENT: AT&T Technologies, Inc.
LOCATION: Sable Communications of California

DOCKET NO.: 87-1428
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

CITATION: 490 US 900 (1989)
ARGUED: Mar 20, 1989
DECIDED: Jun 12, 1989

ADVOCATES:
Barry L. Goldstein - on behalf of the Petitioners
Charles A. Shanor - as amici curiae, supporting the Petitioners
David W. Carpenter - on behalf of the Respondents

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Lorance v. AT&T Technologies, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 20, 1989 in Lorance v. AT&T Technologies, Inc.

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument first this morning on No. 87-1428, Patricia Lorance v. AT&T Technologies.

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

Barry L. Goldstein:

Mr. Chief Justice Rehnquist, and may it please the Court:

The question presented by this case is may a female worker file a timely charge from the operation of a selection practice designed to discriminate against female workers when that operation causes her job demotion, as the company and the union intended.

This record dramatically presents this issue because AT&T and Local 1942 conspired to change the seniority system to advantage male workers over female workers.

In 1982 the Petitioners were demoted to lower-paying jobs by the operation of this discriminatory seniority system, while males with less seniority remained in the higher-paying jobs.

Within 300 days, within the time requirement required by Title VII, the Petitioners filed charges that their Title VII rights had been violated by the operation of this discriminatory seniority system.

Nevertheless, the lower court granted summary judgment against Petitioners since the Petitioners did not file within 300 days of first becoming subject to the discriminatory system in 1979 and 1980, although the system at that time did not operate to cause them to lose their jobs.

Both Petitioners and Respondents argue that the lower court erred.

I shall describe three reasons, based upon the projected operation of the three rules, the rules proposed by Petitioners and Respondents and the rule adopted by the Seventh Circuit as to why the Petitioners' rule is the only one consistent with the objective of Title VII to end discriminatory employment practices and the only rule consistent with the efficient judicial administration of the Fair Employment law.

First, let me turn to the opportunity to challenge discriminatory practices.

Petitioners' rule is straightforward.

It would permit a member of a class of intended victims of a plan to discriminate to sue, as here, when they are harmed by the implementation of that discriminatory plan.

Petitioners' rule follows from this Court's unanimous decision in Bazemore that the pay practice at issue in Bazemore was illegal even though,

"It is a mere continuation of the pre-1965 discriminatory pay structure. "

Similarly, the implementation of the discriminatorily designed seniority system is an unlawful employment practice.

Antonin Scalia:

Excuse me, but in Bazemore the violation was not the establishment of the pay structure.

I mean, that was not what the plaintiff had to prove in order to make the case.

All the plaintiff had to prove was a difference in pay, not that it was established discriminatorily.

Isn't that correct?

Barry L. Goldstein:

Justice Scalia, I don't think it's quite correct.

I think in Bazemore the plaintiff had to prove, and did prove, that there was a difference in pay and that difference in pay was the result of a discriminatorily designed pay structure established prior to 1965.

It was the two parts, it was the continuation... as the Court said, the mere continuation of the discriminatory pay structure into the time period, as well as the fact that it had been established with a discriminatory intent.

Antonin Scalia:

But it was on its face discriminatory, wasn't it?

I mean, did--

Barry L. Goldstein:

No, sir.

Antonin Scalia:

--It was not?

Barry L. Goldstein:

In fact, the lower court had approved the... well, had said that the pay structure was not discriminatory because, as the lower court said and the Supreme Court credited, the system had been operated in good faith from 1965 through the 1970s when it was challenged.

It was not on its face discriminatory.

Antonin Scalia:

I thought the lower court had said it was not discriminatory only because it was a continuation of a prior system and that was okay, even though if you just looked at it objectively at any single moment, it was discriminatory.