UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT
June 16, 1971
MARY BURKE SPROGIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE
UNITED AIR LINES, INC., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT
Cummings, Kerner, and Stevens, Circuit Judges. Stevens, C. J. dissenting.
CUMMINGS, C. J.:
This appeal raises the question whether United Air Lines, Inc. ("United") violated Section 703(a)(1) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1)) by discriminating against plaintiff because of her sex.*fn1
Prior to June 19, 1966, plaintiff was employed by United as a flight cabin attendant or stewardess. On that date, she was discharged for violating a company policy in effect at that time which required that stewardesses must be unmarried.*fn2 United employed and continues to employ both male and female employees, including male flight cabin attendants or stewards on overseas flights. No policy or rule restricting employment to single males has ever been enforced. Nor have female employees other than stewardesses been subjected to any similar requirement.
In August 1966, plaintiff filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that her discharge constituted unlawful discrimination because of sex in violation of Section 703(a)(1) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Processing of this and similar charges against airlines was suspended by the Commission pending completion of hearings on the request of several airlines, including United, for a written opinion that female sex was a bona fide occupational qualification within the meaning of Section 703(e)(1) of Title VII of the Act. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(e).*fn3 After extended hearings, the Commission ruled on February 23, 1968, that female sex was not a bona fide qualification for the position of flight cabin attendant and reserved resolution of questions concerning the "no-marriage" rule for "individual Commission decisions in pending charges." In August 1968, the Commission concluded that there was reasonable cause to believe that United had violated Section 703(a)(1) by discharging plaintiff. Two months thereafter, the Commission notified plaintiff of her right to sue her former employer in the district court, and this action was commenced a month later.
On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court, 308 F. Supp. 959, found that plaintiff was discharged about June 19, 1966, because of her marriage. Although United then employed only unmarried stewardesses, it permitted its male stewards to be married. The court held that United's discharge of plaintiff was an unlawful employment practice and granted her motion for summary judgment. The court concluded that she was entitled to reinstatement, including the restoration of her seniority and longevity rights. Jurisdiction was retained in order to determine her loss of earnings and whether the same relief should be accorded to similarly discharged United stewardesses.
Simultaneously, the court entered a decree enjoining United from discriminating against plaintiff because of her sex and ordering United to restore her to employment and to pay her compensation "for all pay lost from the time of her illegal discharge on June 19, 1966, to the date of her reinstatement." David J. Shipman of the Chicago Bar was appointed master in chancery to make a recommendation for a money decree. Plaintiff was ordered to submit suggestions with respect to "the issue of whether the scope of the relief herein ordered should be made applicable to other stewardesses discharged by defendant." Further proceedings below were stayed while an interlocutory appeal was perfected pursuant to Section 1292(b) of the Judicial Code. 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b). We affirm.
United's No-Marriage Rule for Stewardesses Discriminates on the Basis of Sex
United first disputes the finding of the district court that the no-marriage rule for stewardesses involves discrimination because of sex. Relying upon Cooper v. Delta Air Lines 274 F. Supp. 781 (D.C. La. 1967), United urges that the qualification merely distinguishes between classes of employees within the job category of stewardess in the same manner as educational or physical requirements.
In 1965 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission considered the applicability of Section 703(a)(1) to discrimination against married women and determined that
"* * * an employer's rule which forbids or restricts the employment of married women and which is not applicable to married men is a discrimination based on sex prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. It does not seem to us relevant that the rule is not directed against all females, but only against married females, for so long as sex is a factor in the application of the rule, such application involves a discrimination based on sex." 29 CFR § 1604.3(a).
This interpretation of the Act is "entitled to great deference." Griggs v. Duke Power Co., 401 U.S. 424, 434, 91 S. Ct. 849, 28 L. Ed. 2d 158. We adopt it as both reasonable and consistent with the legislative policies and history of Title VII.
The scope of Section 703(a)(1) is not confined to explicit discriminations based "solely" on sex.*fn4 In forbidding employers to discriminate against individuals because of their sex, Congress intended to strike at the entire spectrum of disparate treatment of men and women resulting from sex stereotypes. Section 703(a)(1) subjects to scrutiny and eliminates such irrational impediments to job opportunities and enjoyment which have plagued women in the past. The effect of the statute is not to be diluted because discrimination adversely affects only a portion of the protected class. Discrimination is not to be tolerated under the guise of physical properties possessed by one sex (cf. Cheatwood v. South Central Bell Telephone and Telegraph Co., 303 F. Supp. 754, 759-760 (M.D. Ala. 1969)) or through the unequal application of a seemingly neutral company policy. Cf. Phillips v. Martin Marietta Corp., 400 U.S. 542, 27 L. Ed. 2d 613, 91 S. Ct. 496.
Viewing the class of United's married employees, it is clear that United has contravened Section 703(a)(1) by applying one standard for men and one for women. Cf. Phillips v. Martin Marietta Corp., supra. Concededly, the marital status rule applicable to stewardesses has been applied to no male employee, whatever his position. More pointedly, no male flight personnel, including male flight cabin attendants or stewards, have been subject to that condition of hiring or continued employment.
It is irrelevant to this determination of discrimination that the no-marriage rule has been applied only to female employees falling into the single, narrowly drawn "occupational category" of stewardess. Disparity of treatment violative of Section 703(a)(1) may exist whether it is universal throughout the company or confined to a particular position. Nor is the fact of discrimination negated by United's claim that the female employees occupy a unique position so that there is no distinction between members of opposite sexes within the job category. Considerations of the peculiar characteristics of the position only pertain to the claim of a bona fide occupational qualification under Section 703(e)(1). See 29 CFR § 1604.3(b);*fn5 cf. Phillips v. Martin Marietta Corp., supra.
The Marital Status Rule Is Not Justified as a Bona Fide Occupational Qualification
United's second contention is that under Section 703(e)(1) (note 3 supra) the no-marriage rule reflects a bona fide occupational qualification for the position held by stewardesses. Its argument rests upon the acceptance of three propositions: first, the duties currently performed by stewardesses are uniquely different from those assigned to other flight personnel; second, sex constitutes a valid criterion for filling the position of stewardess; and third, the no-marriage rule may therefore be interposed as an additional requirement for such employment.
We find it unnecessary to consider the validity of United's claim that sex constitutes a bona fide occupational requirement for the job of airline stewardess. Even assuming that Section 703(e)(1) might justify hiring only females for that position, that conclusion would not automatically legitimate the no-marriage rule imposed exclusively upon stewardesses. A valid discrimination in favor of women generally in filling that occupational position need not warrant the imposition of an additional qualification which operates discriminatorily against those employees by comparison to United's male employees. United's no-marriage rule must stand upon its own feet. If, and only if, that requirement reflects an inherent quality reasonably necessary to satisfactory performance of the duties of stewardesses can the no-marriage rule be supported. See 29 CFR § 1604.3(b) (note 5 supra).
United has failed to offer any salient rationale in support of its marital status policy. The only reason specifically addressed to that rule is that United was led to impose the requirement after it received complaints from husbands about their wives' working schedules and the irregularity of their working hours. This is clearly insufficient. Section 703(e)(1) specifically requires a correlation between the condition of employment and satisfactory performance of the employees' occupational duties. The complaints of spouses do not suffice as an indicator of employee competence. Moreover, by its very terms, the narrow exception in Section 703(e)(1) calls for employers to treat their employees as individuals. United's blanket prophylactic rule prohibiting marriage unjustifiably punishes a large class of prospective, otherwise qualified and competent employees where an individualized response could adequately dispose of any real employment conflicts.
Similarly, the arguments advanced by United in support of its policy of hiring only females for this position fall short of establishing a basis under Section 703(e)(1) for its no-marriage rule. The marital status of a stewardess cannot be said to affect the individual woman's ability to create the proper psychological climate of comfort, safety, and security for passengers. Nor does any passenger preference for single stewardesses provide a valid reason for invoking the rule. See 29 CFR § 1604.1 (a)(iii);*fn6 Diaz v. Pan American World Airways, Inc., 442 F.2d 385, 387 (5th Cir. 1971).
United has presented no direct, rational, or reasonably limited connection between marital status, job performance, and its no-marriage rule for stewardesses. United has failed to explain why marriage should affect female flight cabin attendants' ability to meet the requirements of that position while at the same time leaving unimpaired the capabilities of male flight personnel, particularly stewards. Nothing in the job descriptions given by United offers a basis for that disparate treatment. Nothing in the institution of marriage necessarily compels the distinction. Accordingly, we hold that the district court properly granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff on this issue.
United's Defense of Good Faith Reliance Upon the Written Interpretation and Opinion of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Is Inapplicable
United also asserts that its rule should not give rise to liability under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act since it "was in good faith, in conformity with, and in reliance on a written interpretation or opinion" of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission within the meaning of Section 713(b)(1) of the Act.*fn7
On July 1, 1965, the Commission published a regulation defining the phrase "written interpretation or opinion of the Commission" in Section 713(b) as having reference to
"only (a) a letter entitled 'opinion letter' and signed by the General Counsel on behalf of the Commission or (b) matter published and so designated in the Federal Register may be considered a 'written interpretation or opinion of the Commission' within the meaning of section 713 of Title VII." 30 Fed. Reg. 8407; 29 CFR § 1601.30.
This agency interpretation of the operative statutory language reasonably confines reliance justified under Section 713(b) to considered official expressions of opinion taking two specifically defined forms. As Judge Wisdom observed in Local 189, United Papermakers v. United States, 416 F.2d 980, 997 (5th Cir. 1969), certiorari denied, 397 U.S. 919, 25 L. Ed. 2d 100, 90 S. Ct. 926, " a broader reading might bind the Commission to informal or unapproved opinions volunteered by members of its staff."
United does not contend that it relied upon anything published in the Federal Register by the Commission. Instead United relies upon a so-called "letter of opinion" of the Commission's General Counsel as to the applicability to the airline industry of the Commission's ruling on discrimination against married women.*fn8 Nothing in United's affidavit, however, supports the claim that this document was in fact an "opinion letter" issued on proper request pursuant to applicable agency procedures. See 29 CFR §§ 1601.29, 1601.30. Significantly, the document referred to in United's affidavit lacked the letterhead of the Commission and it did not reveal the addressee. There is no indication that the General Counsel's letter was "entitled 'opinion letter'" or signed by the General Counsel on behalf of the Commission as required by the interpretive regulation. Moreover, the representations of the Commission itself, before this Court as amicus curiae, disclose that the purported "letter of opinion" was instead a September 22, 1965, internal agency memorandum from the General Counsel to the Director of Compliance with respect to the latter's handling of inquiries he received.
Apart from the formal insufficiencies apparent from United's affidavit, the content of the September 22, 1965, Commission memorandum itself also fails to support a claim of good faith reliance upon an official opinion letter. The memorandum merely states that definitive judgment on the legality of no-marriage rules must be suspended pending further determination by the Commission of possible Section 703(e)(1) exemptions. The only "opinion" expressed was that the circumstances existing at that time prevented an unequivocal ruling that the guideline on discrimination against married women invalidated airlines' no-marriage rules for stewardesses. The memorandum does not indicate a considered legal judgment approving the policy under the Act. Accordingly, we must conclude that the memorandum was not intended as the basis for employer reliance now claimed by United.
Intentional Violation Unnecessary
United seeks to escape responsibility on the ground that it was not intentionally violating Title VII. Such an argument has been rejected by the Fifth and Tenth Circuits, which have construed "intentionally" in Section 706(g) as meaning the employment practice must be deliberate rather than accidental.*fn9 Local No. 189, United Papermakers v. United States, 416 F.2d 980, 996 (5th Cir. 1969), certiorari denied 397 U.S. 919, 25 L. Ed. 2d 100, 90 S. Ct. 926; Jones v. Lee Way Motor Freight, Inc., 431 F.2d 245 (10th Cir. 1970). We agree with that construction of the Act. Cf. Griggs v. Duke Power Company, 401 U.S. 424, 432, 91 S. Ct. 849, 28 L. Ed. 2d 158. The district court's conclusion that defendant's policy was "deliberate" was justified by the record and satisfies Section 706(g).
The District Court Had Jurisdiction to Provide Relief to Individuals Similarly Situated
As part of its decree, the district court retained jurisdiction to consider the possibility of extending relief to other stewardesses similarly discharged by United's enforcement of its no-marriage rule. Accordingly, the court ordered plaintiff to submit amended or supplemental pleadings, or suggestions on that matter, and gave United leave to respond. United attacks this portion of the decree as inconsistent with the policy of Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. It urges that the "class" aspect of a Title VII action must be established prior to judgment on the merits. We need not anticipate and resolve the array of issues which may arise in the determination of the propriety of class relief. In its present posture, this case presents the bald question of the court's power to grant such relief where justice requires such action. In our opinion, Rule 23 to the contrary notwithstanding, the district court possesses such power in Title VII cases.
The vindication of the public interest expressed by the Civil Rights Act constitutes an important facet of private litigation under Title VII. In Bowe v. Colgate-Palmolive Co., 416 F.2d 711, 719 (7th Cir. 1969), Judge Kerner recognized that such a suit is necessarily a class action "as the evil sought to be ended is discrimination on the basis of a class characteristic, i. e., race, sex, religion or national origin." See also Jenkins v. United Gas Corporation, 400 F.2d 28, 33 (5th Cir. 1968). At stake, therefore, are the interests of the other members of that class, and the court has a special responsibility in the public interest to devise remedies which effectuate the policies of the Act as well as afford private relief to the individual employee instituting the complaint. Bowe v. Colgate-Palmolive Co., 416 F.2d at p. 715; Hutchings v. United States Industries, Inc., 428 F.2d 303, 311-312 (5th Cir. 1970); Parham v. Southwestern Bell Telephone Co., 433 F.2d 421, 428-429 (8th Cir. 1970).
Section 706(g) of the Act (note 9 supra) grants to federal courts plenary powers to fashion affirmative relief eradicating present discrimination and redressing the adverse consequences of past unlawful conduct. Cf. Local 53 of International Ass'n of Heat & Frost I.G.A. Workers v. Vogler, 407 F.2d 1047, 1052-1053 (5th Cir. 1969). In Bowe, we held that this power "should be broadly read and applied so as to effectively terminate the practice and make its victims whole." 416 F.2d at p. 721. In order to accomplish that result, we ordered that the "relief should be made available to all who were so damaged; whether or not they filed charges and whether or not they joined in the suit." Id. ; cf. Griffin v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, 377 U.S. 218, 224, 12 L. Ed. 2d 256, 84 S. Ct. 1226.
In affirming the district court's power to consider extending relief beyond the named plaintiff, we express no opinion on the ultimate decision to be reached upon remand. Whether such relief is appropriate in this case must first be determined by the court below after consideration of the arguments advanced by the parties, including references to the safeguards of Rule 23. We merely hold today that the court may so proceed.
Injunctive Relief Was Permissible
Finally, United asserts that injunctive relief was improper because it had rescinded its no-marriage policy and had reinstated the plaintiff. However, when United rescinded its no-marriage policy in February 1968, previously terminated stewardesses were to be reinstated only on condition of their waiver of back pay, so that all effects of United's discriminatory policy had not been erased. Indeed, United's first offer to reinstatement to this plaintiff was also conditioned upon waiver of her back pay, and its final offer of reinstatement with back pay was not until January 3, 1969, after the filing of this complaint.*fn10 In such circumstances, no abuse of the district court's discretion has been demonstrated. Cypress v. Newport News General & Nonsectarian Hospital Ass'n., 375 F.2d 648, 658 (4th Cir. 1967); Bowe v. Colgate-Palmolive Co., 416 F.2d 711, 719-721 (7th Cir. 1969).
The decree below is affirmed, and the cause is remanded for further proceedings.
STEVENS, C. J., dissenting:
If, except for his sex, plaintiff's husband had precisely the same job qualifications as plaintiff, he would not have been eligible for employment as her replacement. United's requirements for employment as a flight cabin attendant simultaneously discriminated against Mr. Sprogis because of his sex and against Mrs. Sprogis because of her sex.
Since there are only two sexes, a reading of § 703(a)(1) of the Civil Rights Act of *fn19641 which leads to such an anomalous result cannot be correct. In addition, I believe United's affirmative defenses under §§ 703(e)*fn2 and 713(b)*fn3 raised issues of fact which precluded entry of summary judgment. Finally, I do not believe either the statute or Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes the conversion of an individual claim into a class action after a decision on the merits.
I. Plaintiff does not claim that United has been guilty of any company-wide discrimination against females. About 30% of the company's employees are females and about one-third of the female employees are married.*fn4 It is in the category of stewardesses that United is accused of discriminating against females because of their sex. The record demonstrates, however, that in this category United's hiring policies have discriminated in favor of females for many years. Indeed, no male was eligible for the position which plaintiff occupied at the time of her discharge in 1966.
At the end of that year United employed 48 stewards and 3,289 stewardesses. The stewards were employed only on Hawaiian flights, and were required to have job qualifications which plaintiff did not possess.*fn5 For reasons unrelated to her sex, plaintiff was not eligible for the work performed by these 48 males. On the other hand, solely because of sex, no male was eligible for the position which plaintiff and 3,288 other females occupied in 1966.*fn6
Although the qualifications for the position of male steward were narrowly drawn, stewardesses were one of United's largest classification of employees. Neither the classification of stewardesses, nor the limited category of male stewards on Hawaiian flights, is challenged under § 703(a)(2). The issues arise under § 703(a)(1) and, in my opinion, would be no different if United had never employed a male steward.*fn7 The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission makes the same objection to the no marriage rule as applied by air lines which employ no male stewards at all as it does in this case.*fn8
Under the Commission's analysis of the statute, the validity of the no marriage rule turns on the question whether United can justify female sex as a bona fide occupational qualification for the position of stewardess under § 703(e). The Commission withheld any expression of opinion about the no marriage rule for over two years,*fn9 expressly stating in the interim that its opinion would depend on its answer to the BFOQ question.*fn10 All parties have assumed that if United could lawfully limit its employment of flight cabin attendants to females, the no marriage rule would be valid. Thus, under this analysis, the sufficiency of plaintiff's prima facie case under § 703(a)(1) is made to depend upon the unavailability of United's affirmative defense under § 703(e).
As a matter of statutory construction, the Commission's analysis of the relationship between plaintiff's prima facie case and the BFOQ defense is untenable. The scope of the defense is not coextensive with the coverage of § 703(a)(1).*fn11 Moreover, as a matter of procedure, plaintiff should not be required to anticipate and disprove a defense which may or may not be available.*fn12 I believe this simple procedural point underlies the Supreme Court's summary reversal in Phillips v. Martin Marietta Corp., 400 U.S. 542, 27 L. Ed. 2d 613, 91 S. Ct. 496. The acceptance of job applications from men, but not from women, with pre-school age children was plain discrimination because of sex and, therefore, covered by § 703 (a)(1); but whether that discrimination could be justified under § 703(e) obviously depended on the evidence to be adduced by the defendant.*fn13 In my opinion, factors pertinent to the availability of the affirmative defense should not be permitted to confuse the analysis of plaintiff's prima facie case.*fn14
In this case I therefore assume that the question whether a requirement for employment has any job related justification is a matter which, although relevant under § 703(e), is of no significance whatever under § 703(a)(1). The question is simply whether the requirement discriminates against an individual because of his or her " . . . race, color, religion, sex, or national origin."*fn15 The question then is whether United discriminated against plaintiff because of her sex.
When plaintiff's marriage made her ineligible for continued employment as a stewardess, she was offered, and rejected, an opportunity to remain in United's employ in an available ground capacity in accordance with her seniority and qualifications.*fn16 Neither plaintiff's marriage nor her sex disqualified her from employment by United.
The no marriage rule was only one of several requirements for the position of stewardess. Each of the requirements, whether rational or irrational, was an impediment to employment as a stewardess. All of the requirements discriminated against stewardesses as opposed to other females.*fn17 None, however, discriminated against females as opposed to males because no male was eligible for employment in the position of stewardess.
As I read § 703(a)(1), a prima facie case of discrimination is established by showing that a rule has a differential impact on one of the classes of people protected by the Act.*fn18 A simple test for identifying a prima facie case of discrimination because of sex is whether the evidence shows treatment of a person in a manner which but for that person's sex would be different.*fn19
Under this test, plaintiff was not the victim of discrimination because of sex, whether we assume the relevant classification is all United employees or just flight cabin attendants,*fn20 for she has not shown that if she were a member of the opposite sex she would have had any greater employment opportunities either as a "stewardess" or as a "non-stewardess." Since the rule which is challenged disqualified all males and only some females from work in the particular job she desired (and since she does not contend that she was disqualified for work in any other position), in my opinion she was not discharged "because of her sex" within the meaning of § 703(a)(1).
I do not believe the Commission's contrary view is entitled to great deference because it is predicated on an untenable analysis of the statute. I have greater deference for Judge Cummings' analysis, but nevertheless am persuaded that he adopts a test of discrimination that was not intended by Congress.
As I understand the majority's test, it does not focus on the impact of a rule on the employment opportunities of the members of one sex as opposed to the other; instead, the critical inquiry is whether the rule is an irrational impediment derived from a stereotyped attitude toward females. As a matter of policy, the majority's view may not only be contemporary but also wise.*fn21 I am unable, however, to find any guidelines in the language of § 703(a)(1) for differentiating between irrational stereotypes and reasonable requirements. Even assuming arguendo that great deference should be accorded to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, I do not believe Congress intended to entrust the Commission with authority to draw such lines. In the long run, I believe justice will be served and the objectives of the legislation best accomplished by applying the simple comparative standard suggested by the language of the statute. The benefits of an objective standard will be shared by those enforcing the statute and those faced with problems of compliance.
In my opinion, United did not violate § 703(a)(1) by discharging plaintiff from a position which she could not have retained if she had been a man.
In September, 1965, the Commission issued an opinion that a rule restricting the employment of married females but not males is a prohibited discrimination because of sex. The opinion did not expressly indicate that it was intended to apply to a company or job classification in which all employees were members of the same sex. On behalf of various air lines, including United, the Air Transport Association therefore asked the Commission if its opinion applied to stewardesses. The written response of the Commission's General Counsel on September 22, 1965, stated, in part:
"A question has arisen whether or not this interpretation applies to airline stewardesses, with respect to whom companies generally require resignation upon marriage and also reassignment within the company or retirement upon attaining the age 32.
" . . . If an airline may give preference to females only as stewardesses, i.e., if sex is a bona fide occupational qualification for the job of airline stewardesses, it would follow that an airline company could impose further qualifications with respect to such jobs and require that an employee be single and under a certain age. These additional qualifications would be consistent with the original qualification that the employee be a woman.
"The Commission has not yet determined whether or not sex is a bona fide occupational qualification for the position of airline stewardess . . . .
"It would be safe, I believe, to answer any inquiries on this point simply by saying that the Chairman's ruling of September 16th cannot apply to airline stewardesses until the Commission has first resolved the question of bona fide occupational qualification."
The record raises issues of fact as to whether this document was intended merely as an internal memorandum for the guidance of the Commission's staff or, as United contends, as an opinion upon which the air lines could safely rely. As I read § 713(b),*fn22 if United in good faith was acting in reliance on this written interpretation, plaintiff may not recover damages or back pay. I am somewhat skeptical about United's ability to prove sufficient reliance to justify a discharge (as contrasted with a refusal to hire a new employee) while the legal status of the no marriage rule was under review by the Commission, but I believe it made a sufficient factual showing to foreclose the entry of summary judgment.
I also consider it most doubtful that a job related justification for the no marriage rule can be proved. Again, however, it seems to me that the facts disclosed in United's affidavits entitled it to a hearing on the merits of its § 703 defense.*fn23
A jurisdictional precondition to the commencement of a private action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the filing of a charge with the Commission within 90 days after the occurrence of the unlawful employment practice. Choate v. Caterpillar Tractor Company, 402 F.2d 357, 359 (7th Cir. 1968). In Bowe v. Colgate-Palmolive Company, 416 F.2d 711 (7th Cir. 1969) this court read this condition out of the statute for members of a class represented by a plaintiff who had filed the required charge.*fn24 If I read the district court order correctly, the court now holds that even an individual claim eliminates the jurisdictional precondition for all similarly situated persons who might have been represented in a class action. I find no authority in the statute for such an expansion of the right to sue for back pay.
Nor can I find any basis in Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for permitting an individual claim to be converted into a class action after a decision on the merits. Rule 23(c)(1) provides:
"As soon as practicable after the commencement of an action brought as a class action, the court shall determine by order whether it is to be so maintained. An order under this subdivision may be conditional, and may be altered or amended before the decision on the merits."
At a minimum, this rule requires the class to be defined before the merits of the case have been decided. This requirement is, of course, of special importance in litigation involving claims for damages or back pay. A procedure which permits a claim to be treated as a class action if plaintiff wins, but merely as an individual claim if plaintiff loses, is strikingly unfair.*fn25
I respectfully dissent.