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Smithers v. Bailar

decided: September 2, 1980.

SMITHERS, HARRY J., APPELLANT
v.
BAILAR, BENJAMIN F., POSTMASTER GENERAL UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE AND UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE



APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY (D.C. Civil No. 77-0949)

Before Aldisert and Sloviter, Circuit Judges, and Hannum, District Judge.*fn*

Author: Aldisert

Opinion OF THE COURT

The question for decision is whether the district court applied improper legal precepts in deciding against a postal employee in an action brought against the United States Postal Service under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, as amended, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621-634, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e to e-17. Following submission of the case on the administrative record, the district court rendered judgment in favor of the Postal Service. The employee, Harry J. Smithers, has appealed. Determining that there was no error, we affirm.

Appellant, a black male, was 64 years of age in 1975 when he applied for the postmaster's position at the Montclair, New Jersey post office. At that time he was Montclair's assistant postmaster. The National Management Selection Board, charged with the responsibility of filling the position, interviewed appellant and two others on June 6, 1975. At the conclusion of the interviews, the Board unanimously agreed that the post would go to John J. Barry, then 37 years of age. The executive secretary of the Board summarized the Board's reasons for the decision:

The Board members found Mr. Barry to have excellent potential beyond Montclair. Very capable but vague in some of his answers. Has a broad picture of postal operations even though he lacks extensive operations experience in a large facility. Has an in-depth view of problems. Articulate. Knowledgeable in dealing with people. Operated a medium size post office.

Smithers v. Bailar, Civ. No. 77-0949 (D.N.J. Sept. 28, 1979). With respect to appellant, the secretary noted:

Mr. Smithers has done well working his way up the career development ladder. Good experience. Vague in his answers. Wants the title of postmaster for prestige. Could hold fort but question his judgment of the managers in his office. A product of the seniority system. Very personable.

Id. at 8.

Appellant thereafter initiated administrative proceedings alleging age and race discrimination. A hearing was conducted before an Equal Employment Opportunity complaints examiner from the United States Civil Service Commission on January 13 and 14, 1977. The complaints examiner's findings and recommended decision concluded that the reasons appellant was not chosen to be the Montclair postmaster were unrelated to race or age. The Postal Service adopted the examiner's findings and conclusions. Thereafter the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued a right to sue letter and appellant filed the present civil action in the district court. The parties stipulated to certain evidence and agreed that the issues of age and race discrimination would be submitted without testimony or evidence other than that contained in the transcript of the administrative record. They also agreed to allow the court to "make whatever credibility resolution and evidentiary decision . . . may be necessary . . . ." Id. at 2 n.2.

I.

The district court's analysis of the age discrimination claim began with an inquiry whether appellant had established a prima facie case of age discrimination by satisfying the four criteria set forth in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802, 93 S. Ct. 1817, 1824, 36 L. Ed. 2d 668 (1973):

The complainant in a Title VII trial must carry the initial burden under the statute of establishing a prima facie case of racial discrimination. This may be done by showing (i) that he belongs to a racial minority; (ii) that he applied and was qualified for a job for which the employer was seeking applicants; (iii) that, despite his qualifications, he was rejected; and (iv) that, after his rejection, the position ...


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