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KYRIAZI v. WESTERN ELEC. CO.

May 2, 1979

Kyriaki Cleo KYRIAZI, Plaintiff,
v.
WESTERN ELECTRIC CO. et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: STERN

Stage I of this class action brought under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e Et seq., resulted in a finding by this Court that Western Electric discriminated against female applicants, former employees and present employees at its Kearny plant. See Kyriazi v. Western Electric Co., 461 F. Supp. 894 (D.N.J.1978). State II proceedings were commenced immediately thereafter. See Kyriazi v. Western Electric Co., 465 F. Supp. 1141 (D.N.J.1979). Special Masters were appointed to preside over the hearings of some 1,700 class members who have elected to pursue their Title VII remedies each of whom Western requires be given individualized damage remedies. The question presented at this juncture of State II is whether Western may withhold the wages of employees who must take time from work to participate in State II proceedings as class members, or as witnesses For class members, while at the same time compensating its supervisors who testify at these proceedings on Western's behalf Against a class member. We conclude that this practice violates the spirit, if not the letter, of Title VII.

Title VII makes it unlawful for an employer to retaliate against an employee who pursues his Title VII rights:

 
It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discriminate against any of his employees . . . because he has . . . testified, assisted or participated in any manner in . . . (a) proceeding or hearing under this subchapter.

 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a). While three courts have held that wages lost by class members during their participation in State I Title VII proceedings are not recoverable as Costs under Rule 54(d), See, Carreathers v. Alexander, 587 F.2d 1046, 1052 (10th Cir. 1978); Bowe v. Colgate-Palmolive Co., 272 F. Supp. 332 (S.D.Ind.1967), Aff'd in part, rev'd in part, 416 F.2d 711 (7th Cir. 1969); Barth v. Bayou Candy Co., Inc., 379 F. Supp. 1201 (E.D.La.1974), none of these cases considers the application of § 2000e-3(a). Moreover, none of these cases involves a State II proceeding after a finding of liability in favor of the class, nor do they indicate whether the employer paid wages to those employees who testified on the employer's behalf.

 Western, during a colloquy with the Court, argued that its conduct does not amount to retaliation within the meaning of § 2000e-3(a):

 
MR. LYNCH: I think there has to be an intention to retaliate. There has to be an obvious link between whatever the retaliation is and the filing of the claim. I think that requires some intent, your Honor.
 
THE COURT: . . . Let's take somebody who is not, as you call it, a claimant, and who is, instead, a Supervisor. Suppose the Supervisor is called by the woman and the Supervisor says, "Yes, I know this lady was discriminated against. I was told by my boss, Don't give her the job, because she's a woman."
 
That is all hypothetical, of course . . . But I'm trying to do it for the sake of the discussion.
 
Under those circumstances may Western say, "You may come and testify only if you do it on your own time, but the Supervisor who testifies that there wasn't such discretion, we'll pay him to come?"
 
THE COURT: . . .
 
In other words, a witness is called, but instead of being called by Western, for Western, is called by a claimant for a claimant. If Western is paying all of its own employees to testify when they testify for Western, can Western, given this statute, say, "We won't pay anybody to come down and give testimony we don't like?"
 
MR. LYNCH: I don't know I can say we won't pay anybody to give testimony we don't like. But I think it can make a distinction between Western's witnesses that it calls and witnesses called by someone else.
 
THE COURT: Isn't that a discriminatory decision based on the subject ...

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