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SHULTZ v. CORNING GLASS WORKS

July 10, 1970

George P. Shultz, Secretary of Labor, United States Department of Labor, Plaintiff,
v.
Corning Glass Works, Defendant


Curtin, D. J.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: CURTIN

CURTIN, D. J.:

The Secretary of Labor commenced this action under the provisions of Section 17 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (29 U.S.C. § 217) to enjoin violations of Section 6(d) of the Act, and to restrain any withholding of payment of wages found by the court to be due to employees under the Act.

 The plaintiff, George P. Shultz, Secretary of Labor, sues on behalf of all Class C, Class B, TV, and General TV inspectors working during periods pertinent in this lawsuit. Class B inspectors and Class C inspectors perform their functions in A Factory and in B & C Factory (also referred to herein as B Factory). TV inspectors and General TV inspectors function in the Pressware plant.

 This dispute arose because of the higher base wage rates paid to inspectors working on the steady night shift who allegedly perform work equal to that performed by inspectors on the day and afternoon shifts. Prior to June 1, 1966, except during World War II, only female inspectors worked in the disputed jobs on the day and afternoon shifts, and only male inspectors worked on the steady night shift.

 The defendant's employees represented by the plaintiff include both male and female inspectors in the various job categories. Those male inspectors who did inspection work on the day and afternoon shifts after June 11, 1964, the effective date of the Equal Pay Act, are damaged monetarily if the violation charged is proven because, absent a violation, the base rate for the day and afternoon shifts would equal the higher base rate paid at night.

 Section 6(d), commonly known as the Equal Pay Act, was enacted on June 10, 1963, to be effective one year thereafter. Section 6(d)(1) provides:

 
"No employer having employees subject to any provisions of this section shall discriminate, within any establishment in which such employees are employed, between employees on the basis of sex by paying wages to employees in such establishment at a rate less than the rate at which he pays wages to employees of the opposite sex in such establishment for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions, except where such payment is made pursuant to (i) a seniority system; (ii) a merit system; (iii) a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or (iv) a differential based on any other factor other than sex: Provided, That an employer who is paying a wage rate differential in violation of this subsection shall not, in order to comply with the provisions of this subsection, reduce the wage rate of any employee."

 To carry its burden of proof, the plaintiff must establish by a fair preponderance of the evidence these elements:

 
(1) The disputed jobs entail equal work, that is, the performance of these jobs, under similar working conditions, require equal skill, effort, and responsibility;
 
(2) Within the same establishment, the defendant pays employees doing equal work a different wage rate;
 
(3) The different wage rates are paid on account of sex.

 The four exceptions to the Act have been held to be affirmative defenses which must be pleaded and proven by a defendant-employer. Wirtz v. Basic, Inc., 256 F. Supp. 786 (D. Nev. 1966). Finally, an employer may not decrease any employee's pay rate to come in conformity with the Act.

 In its original answer, the defendant denied that the work performed by the men and women involved in this lawsuit was equal. After the trial, the defendant moved, pursuant to Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, for an order permitting it to amend its answer to conform to the evidence. The proposed amendments are: (1) "The payments made to steady night shift inspectors were and are based upon a factor other than sex;" (2) "To the extent that the complaint states a claim prior to November 1, 1964, it is barred by the statute of limitations." Defendant's motion to amend its answer is granted.

 At the beginning of the trial, the parties stipulated that the statute of limitations barred all claims arising prior to November 1, 1964. Accordingly, any award for back pay should be computed commencing on November 1, 1964.

 The court has considered the extensive memoranda of law submitted by the parties. What follows constitutes this court's findings of fact and conclusions of law.

 Establishment

 All three plants are separate, making different products. A Factory is engaged primarily in the production of pyrex products, B & C Factory in the production of optical products, and the Pressware plant in the production of television products.

 A Factory and B & C Factory share an office building, are located back to back, and are connected by passageways. The Pressware plant is about one-half mile away from the other two.

 Each plant is an independent manufacturing unit, having its own management and engineering staff and a separate payroll department.

 A central employment office where all prospective employees make their original applications services all Corning area plants. As a particular plant needs new workers, a final pre-employment interview is conducted at the separate personnel office of the plant, where the decision is made to accept or reject the applicant for employment. After employment, an employee, by exercising his seniority rights, may transfer from one plant to another. However, a transfer from A Factory or B Factory to Pressware, or back to A Factory or B Factory from Pressware, is unusual since Class C and Class B inspectors work only in A Factory or B Factory, and TV and General TV inspectors work only in the Pressware plant.

 Most employees at Corning, including the inspectors, are represented by the American Flint Glass Workers of North America, Local 1000. One collective bargaining agreement covers all Corning area plants. All payroll checks are written on a computer on information supplied by each plant.

 The court finds that A Factory and B & C Factory constitute one establishment, and that the Pressware plant constitutes a separate establishment within the meaning of the Equal Pay Act. The reasons for this holding are that Pressware is separated from the other two plants, and because the inspectors do not transfer back and forth between the Pressware plant and the other two plants. Phillips, Inc. v. Walling, 324 U.S. 490, 89 L. Ed. 1095, 65 S. Ct. 807 (1944); Mitchell v. Bekins Van & Storage Company, 352 U.S. 1027, 77 S. Ct. 593, 1 L. Ed. 2d 589 (1957), 29 CFR 800.108.

 History

 Steady night shift inspection jobs were added to existing rotating day and afternoon shift inspection jobs some time between 1925 and 1930, when the introduction of automatic production equipment made it necessary to inspect wares on three shifts. At that time, New York State law prohibited the employment of women between the hours of 10:00 P.M. and 6:00 A.M. *fn1" The defendant did not pay additional wages in 1930 as a shift differential. However, in order to obtain male employees willing to perform what was regarded by the male employees as female work, the defendant had to pay the male employees a higher rate than it paid female employees who performed inspection work on the day and afternoon shifts. This higher base rate for steady night work was never paid for inspection work on the day and afternoon shifts until January 20, 1969, when the company and the union agreed to equalize base rates on all three shifts with payments retroactive to November, 1968.

 Beginning in the early 30's, some inspectors at some stations on the steady night shift performed their own "utility work" which entailed, among other things, carrying heavy loads from the end of the lehr. Similar work on the day and afternoon shifts was performed by utility workers assigned to assist the female inspectors.

 Because of manpower shortages during World War II, the defendant employed some women as steady night shift inspectors. These female night inspectors performed their own utility work, including the moving of boxes, the trucking away of ware and the positioning of skids and boxes adjacent to the inspection area. They received a higher rate of pay than the day and afternoon inspectors and the same rate paid to male night inspectors, if and when they performed all the work ordinarily required of a male night inspector.

 After World War II, Corning returned to the prior practice of employing only males in the steady ...


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