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MILTON v. BELL LABS.

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY


March 7, 1977

John W. MILTON, Plaintiff,
v.
BELL LABORATORIES, INCORPORATED, Defendant

The opinion of the court was delivered by: LACEY

MEMORANDUM OPINION

 LACEY, District Judge.

 Plaintiff, a 38-year-old black attorney, sues under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (1974), the thirteenth amendment of the United States Constitution, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (1974), alleging racial discrimination practiced by the defendant corporation Bell Laboratories, Incorporated [BTL], in refusing to employ him in its Patent Division. He seeks declaratory and injunctive relief together with compensatory and punitive damages, counsel fees and costs of suit. Subject matter jurisdiction lies in this court under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 (1966), as amended by Pub.L. 94-574, 90 Stat. 2721 (1976), and 1343(3) (1976) and 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(3) (1974).

 The defendant BTL is a New York corporation jointly owned by The American Telephone and Telegraph [AT&T] and Western Electric Company, Incorporated [Western Electric]. Its primary function is to provide research and development services in communications technology to AT&T and Western Electric. P-36. *fn1" BTL does not deny refusing plaintiff employment. It contends, however, that it did so not because of racial reasons but because he was found not to have the ability it sought and required in applicants for employment in its Patent Division.

 BTL's Patent Division is within its Research and Patent Area, which encompasses divisions responsible for physical research, mathematics, behavioral sciences, communications sciences, and operations research. P-36.

 Plaintiff is a black male citizen of the United States. At the date of the filing of his original complaint, he was a resident of the State of New Jersey. He is presently a resident of the State of Maryland. Tr. 6. *fn2"

 He holds an Associate Degree from the R.C.A. Institute (1964), P-1 and Stip. 1, *fn3" and a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in computer technology and computer science from New York Institute of Technology (1972). P-3; Stip. 1. As an undergraduate he had 73 hours of study in electronics technology, mathematics and physics. P-1; P-3; Tr. 107, 118. He received a Juris Doctor degree from Rutgers Law School in June 1975, Stip. 5; and he is a member of the bar of the State of Pennsylvania. Stip. 6; Tr. 8. Between his graduation from the R.C.A. Institute and matriculation at New York Institute of Technology, he had five years of employment in the computer technology field. Tr. 100-05.

 From October 1975 to September 1976 he was employed in a legal capacity in the Patent Section of the United States Energy Research and Development Administration [ERDA]. Tr. 72, 88. His compensation there was $14,500 per annum. Tr. 94. He is presently employed as an attorney by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Washington, D.C. Tr. 9. His compensation is about $20,400 per year. Tr. 99. In view of his employment almost immediately after law school, his damages are minimal. However, he seeks punitive damages of $1,000 and counsel fees.

 At the time when plaintiff was a student at New York Institute of Technology, that institution had a permanent charter from the New York State Board of Regents as a four-year college granting the baccalaureate degree. Stip. 2; Tr. 9.

 While a student at New York Institute of Technology, plaintiff had a cumulative grade point average of 3.03 on a 4.00 scale. Stip. 3. Additionally, he received a citation for distinctive student achievement throughout his college years; the Richard Gabey Memorial Award; and a Woodrow Wilson National Foundation two-year Martin Luther King Fellowship to attend graduate or professional school for the academic years 1972-1973 and 1973-1974, Stip. 4 as amended at Tr. 11, as well as other honors and credentials reflected in P-7; Tr. 10-11.

 Plaintiff's contact with BTL began shortly before his graduation from New York Institute of Technology, when he was interviewed there by a BTL recruiter. Tr. 17, 38.

 He was offered but refused a position with the defendant, at a starting salary of $12,000 per year. Stip. 7; Tr. 129.

 Later, he applied for temporary employment with the defendant in the summer of 1973, but none was available. However, with defendant's assistance, he secured a summer job with the Urban League of Union County, New Jersey, where his salary of $245 a week was provided to the Urban League by the defendant. Stip. 8; Tr. 40, 130.

 The following year, January 23, 1974, plaintiff applied to defendant for summer employment. P-6; P-7. He was offered employment and accepted it by letter of February 28, 1974, P-8, at a salary of $250 per week. He became one of a group of five Patent Division participants in the BTL 1974 summer training program for minorities and women. Stip. 9. This was a program, initiated in October 1973, and undertaken by the Patent Division to interest and encourage minorities and women in careers as patent attorneys and to increase the pool of potential minority and female applicants. The program provides minorities and women with temporary summer employment and exposes them to the actual work experience of patent attorneys and the career potentials of patent law. Jt.Ex. 36-37, 61-62; P-33. *fn4" Plaintiff reported for work on June 4, 1974 and terminated his employment on September 15, 1974. Stip. 10; P-86.

 William Ryan, BTL patent attorney and coordinator, and recruiter for the Patent Division 1974 Summer Program, included plaintiff in the program because he was mature, had a varied experience, had a degree in a nominally technical discipline, was already in law school, and had indicated an interest in patent law. Jt.Ex. 44. It was merely a familiarizing program. Tr. 774. There was no commitment of any participant to make patent law his or her career, and there was no suggestion made to him or her by BTL of permanent employment. Tr. 133, 1026.

 Plaintiff was assigned to work under the supervision and guidance of Charles Graves, a Patent Division "host" or "associated attorney." Tr. 137. Plaintiff, apparently in an effort to advance his "central allegation" of inadequate supervision, Tr. 57, points to the fact that during the summer of 1974 Mr. Graves was absent from plaintiff's worksite for 23 full working days and four partial days during plaintiff's three months and two weeks employment. D-52. It is noted too that plaintiff's expert witness, Laurence Lerner, indicated Graves' supervision of Milton was inadequate. Tr. 271. Having heard the testimony of both plaintiff and Graves, I reject Lerner's conclusions and opinions as unwarranted, unfounded, and entitled to no weight at all, and find that Milton did receive appropriate and more than adequate supervision from BTL that summer, consistent with what the summer program contemplated. See also n.16, infra. It is obvious to me that Graves, a long-time BTL employee and experienced patent attorney, Tr. 683-84, with supervisory experience, Tr. 742-44, and selected by BTL to aid in administering this new summer minority program, took his responsibility seriously and, if anything, exercised more supervision over Milton than the latter felt was necessary, giving rise to a candid expression of resentment by Milton. *fn5" Tr. 696-97; and see Tr. 706-11, 714, 777-78, 794; D-45. It is noteworthy that Mr. Milton, when he was interviewed by Ms. Judith Foster, Technical Employment Representative of BTL, at the end of the summer (specifically, September 12, 1974), did not complain of inadequate supervision. *fn6" Tr. 921; P-11. See also Tr. 716-17, 726.

  Alerted to his future role in this summer program, Graves had prepared a training prospectus. D-14. It is impressive in its reflection of thoughtful preparation, and is clearly designed to promote a budding lawyer's interest in patent law. It also demonstrates that BTL was not simply engaging in a cosmetic display of "affirmative action."

 Milton having been assigned to Graves, the latter reviewed with him possible work assignments. Tr. 747-49. Milton was given an opportunity to select from the outlined assignments what he wanted to pursue. *fn7" Tr. 753-54.

 Under this arrangement, plaintiff worked on two patent amendments, Miller 2 and 3, and two patent applications, Miller 4 and Cherin 1, Tr. 50-52, all dealing with optical fiber splicing. Stip. 12; Tr. 24. The technology involved was relatively simple. Tr. 801, 836.

 Since Graves claims that it was on the basis of BTL's assessment of Milton's work that summer that it refused him permanent employment subsequently, Graves' testimony concerning this work must be examined closely. *fn8" This examination will be deferred at this point, however, in order to review certain events occurring during and after Milton's summer 1974 employment.

 The two patent amendments and two applications to which plaintiff was assigned that summer did not require a high level of technical background or skills. Yet Graves concluded that plaintiff did not really understand what was involved and that Milton's work was technically inadequate. P-13; Jt.Ex. 113-14; Tr. 700-01.

 Nor was Graves the only witness who was critical of Milton's skills. Toward the end of the 1974 summer, Michael Urbano, another BTL patent attorney, substituted as plaintiff's supervising attorney for five days and concluded that plaintiff's writing skills were grossly deficient. Jt.Ex. 14-15; Tr. 943-44.

 Everett J. Olinder, defendant's assistant patent attorney director, Tr. 1000, and witness, was shown some of plaintiff's work by Graves in the summer of 1974. Well prior to any application by Milton for permanent employment, Graves told Olinder that Milton's work was unsatisfactory. Graves and Olinder met and discussed Milton's work. Olinder judged that work as poor. Tr. 1002-04.

 Because to do so would not have been in the spirit of the summer program or consistent with the program's objectives, Graves did not prepare a formal evaluation of plaintiff's work at the end of the summer. Jt.Ex. 15, 93; Tr. 944. At the end of the summer, plaintiff returned to his last year of law school. Tr. 54. On November 27, 1974 and, significantly, well prior to the time plaintiff applied for a permanent job with BTL as a patent attorney, the Atomic Energy Commission [AEC] wrote Graves, advising that plaintiff had applied and was being considered for employment as a legal intern, and Graves was asked to supply it with information on plaintiff's qualifications and potential. P-83; Tr. 702. Graves responded to this request in the following manner. Factors of Evaluation Remarks Personal Relationship John is one of the tougher people to supervise that I encountered. Knowledge in His Field John had no previous experience in Patent Law. His strengths probably lie elsewhere in the long run. Mental Oualities Medium, except in objectivity. I'd rate him needing in this dept. Potential Depends altogether on the job. John's analytical skills are probably greater in criminal law areas than in the technically more complex areas of law. Work relationship - Perseverance and John will give any job a reasonable and promptness in completion of good college try. assignments

19770307

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