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ALBEMARLE PAPER CO. V. MOODY, 422 U. S. 405 (1975)

U.S. Supreme Court

Albemarle Paper Co. v. Moody, 422 U.S. 405 (1975)

Albemarle Paper Co. v. Moody

No. 74-389

Argued April 14, 1975

Decided June 25, 1975*

422 U.S. 405


Respondents, a certified class of present and former Negro employees, brought this action against petitioners, their employer, Albemarle Paper Co., and the employees' union, seeking injunctive relief against "any policy, practice, custom or usage" at the plant violative of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, and, after several years of discovery, moved to add a class backpay demand. At the trial, the major issues were the plant's seniority system, its program of employment testing, and backpay. The District Court found that, following a reorganization under a new collective bargaining agreement, the Negro employees had been "locked' in the lower paying job classifications," and ordered petitioners to implement a system of plantwide seniority. The court refused, however, to order backpay for losses sustained by the plaintiff class under the discriminatory system, on the grounds that (1) Albemarle's breach of Title VII was found not to have been in "bad faith," and (2) respondents, who had initially disclaimed interest in backpay, had delayed making their backpay claim until five years after the complaint was filed, thereby prejudicing petitioners. The court also refused to enjoin or limit Albemarle's testing program, which respondents had contended had a disproportionate adverse impact on blacks and was not shown to be related to job performance, the court concluding that "personnel tests administered at the plant have undergone validation studies and have been proven to be job-related." Respondents appealed on the backpay and pre-employment tests issues. The Court of Appeals reversed the District Court's judgment.


1. Given a finding of unlawful discrimination, backpay should be denied only for reasons that, if applied generally, would not frustrate the central statutory purposes manifested by Congress in enacting Title VII of eradicating discrimination throughout the

Page 422 U. S. 406

economy and making persons whole for injuries suffered through past discrimination. Pp. 422 U. S. 413-422.

2. The absence of bad faith is not a sufficient reason for denying backpay, Title VII not being concerned with the employer's "good intent or absence of discriminatory intent," for "Congress directed the thrust of the Act to the consequences of employment practices, not simply the motivation," Griggs v. Duke Power Co., 401 U. S. 424, 401 U. S. 432. Pp. 422 U. S. 422-423.

3. Whether respondents' tardiness and inconsistency in making their backpay demand were excusable and whether they actually prejudiced petitioners are matters that will be open to review by the Court of Appeals if the District Court, on remand, decides again to decline a backpay award. Pp. 422 U. S. 423-425.

4. As is clear from Griggs, supra, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Guidelines for employers seeking to determine through professional validation studies whether employment tests are job-related, such tests are impermissible unless shown, by professionally acceptable methods, to be

"predictive of or significantly correlated with important elements of work behavior which comprise or are relevant to the job or jobs for which candidates are being evaluated."

Measured against that standard, Albemarle's validation study is materially defective in that (1) it would not, because of the odd patchwork of results from its application, have "validated" the two general ability tests used by Albemarle for all the skilled lines of progression for which the two tests are, apparently, now required; (2) it compared test scores with subjective supervisorial rankings, affording no means of knowing what job performance criteria the supervisors were considering; (3) it focused mostly on job groups near the top of various lines of progression, but the fact that the best of those employees working near the top of a line of progression score well on a test does not necessarily mean that the test permissibly measures the qualifications of new workers entering lower level jobs; and (4) it dealt only with job-experienced, white workers, but the tests themselves are given to new job applicants, who are younger, largely inexperienced, and in many instances nonwhite. Pp. 422 U. S. 425-435.

5. In view of the facts that, during the appellate stages of this litigation, Albemarle has apparently been amending its departmental organization and the use made of its tests; that issues of standards of proof for job-relatedness and of evidentiary procedures involving validation tests have not until now, been clarified;

Page 422 U. S. 407

and that provisional use of tests pending new validation effort may be authorized, the District Court, on remand, should initially fashion the necessary relief. P. 422 U. S. 436.

474 F.2d 134, vacated and remanded.

STEWART, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which DOUGLAS, BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., post, p. 422 U. S. 440, and REHNQUIST, J., post, p. 422 U. S. 441, filed concurring opinions. BLACKMUN, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 422 U. S. 447. BURGER, C.J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, post, p. 422 U. S. 449. POWELL, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the cases.

Page 422 U. S. 408

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