The opinion of the court was delivered by: LASKER
On December 28, 1977, Victor Griffin wrote to George B. Buck Consulting Actuaries, Inc. ("Buck") to request an employment interview. Griffin, who is black, is a 1975 magna cum laude graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of Business, where he obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics with a major in actuarial science and accounting. In the course of his studies at the University of Pennsylvania Griffin maintained a 4.0 average in his seven accounting courses and five actuarial science courses, and was awarded numerous academic prizes and citations. At the time of his application to Buck, Griffin had passed seven of the examinations administered by the American Society of Actuaries, and was therefore an Associate Member of the Society.
Upon receipt of Mr. Griffin's letter, Buck invited Griffin to come for an interview on January 24, 1978 at Buck's offices in New York. On that date Griffin was interviewed for a position as an actuarial trainee by Patricia Sic, then a recruiter for Buck, and by Paul Westbrook, then the Director of Personnel. Following these interviews, Griffin received a letter of rejection. A complaint to the New York State Division of Human Rights,
and later this action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., followed.
At trial, Griffin and Westbrook were the only two witnesses to testify. Griffin testified
first about his background and qualifications, which were summarized on the resume he sent to Buck (Pl. Ex. 2). He stated that he had applied to Buck on the recommendation of one of his professors at Wharton, who described Buck as one of the most prestigious pension consulting firms in the country. Griffin believed that the training he could receive at Buck would be invaluable.
Griffin's interview with Sic lasted ten to fifteen minutes. Sic did not question Griffin about his background, nor did she ask any questions designed to explore his actuarial knowledge. She did ask him, among other things, what salary he was looking for. Griffin answered that he was looking for $28,000, to which Sic replied that "he would be lucky if he got half of that." There was no further discussion of salary. During the interview Griffin asked Sic whether there were other black actuaries at Buck and whether Buck had an affirmative action program. Sic said that Buck had an affirmative action program but that they had trouble finding blacks who had passed even one or two examinations. Griffin pointed out that he had passed seven.
At the end of the interview, Sic took Griffin to Westbrook's office. The interview with Westbrook lasted 20 to 30 minutes. Westbrook and Griffin did discuss some substantive matters relating to actuarial science, including the then new ERISA
legislation and recent changes in certain aspects of the social security system. Griffin asked Westbrook, among other things, what the requirements were for becoming a partner at Buck. Westbrook replied in substance that partnership was reserved for only a select group of people. There was no discussion between Griffin and Westbrook about salary or about Griffin's attitude toward the actuarial trainee program at Buck. Westbrook commented "out of the blue" at one point that he had a friend who graduated Phi Beta Kappa and nevertheless accomplished little in his career. Westbrook added that he was the only one from his neighborhood to go to college and that he believed one's environment had nothing to do with success.
Griffin testified that when he called Westbrook on February 13, 1978 to ask why he had been rejected, Westbrook said that Griffin had not warmed up to him during the interview, that other applicants would be better at working with the other actuaries at Buck, and that Griffin did not have the kind of personality that would enable him to get a job with a consulting firm. Realizing that Sic had indicated that the salary he mentioned was high, Griffin asked Westbrook whether the salary issue had been a problem. Westbrook replied that it had not; he told Griffin that he had not taken his thinking process that far. Griffin asked whether he had measured up to other candidates in terms of his knowledge of actuarial science, and Westbrook stated that his knowledge seemed to be good. Westbrook said that he thought Griffin was not really interested in the "nitty-gritty" aspects of the actuarial trainee position, to which Griffin answered that he did not understand that judgment since Westbrook never discussed the question with him. When Griffin stated that he believed he was being rejected because of his race and that he planned to take legal action against Buck, Westbrook replied that Griffin had the right to do so but that the effort would be futile.
Westbrook testified that, because of various awards and activities listed on Griffin's resume, he was aware that Griffin was black when he invited Griffin for an interview. Indeed, Westbrook stated that he authorized Sic to offer to pay Griffin's expenses in coming to New York, something that was not done for white out-of-town applicants, because Buck was interested in hiring members of minority groups.
Westbrook testified that he decided not to offer Griffin a position because Griffin's salary expectations were too high and he did not appear interested in the type of work an actuarial trainee must perform at Buck. During his interview with Westbrook, Griffin said that he was looking for a salary in the mid-20's, and that other firms were offering that much; the maximum salary Griffin could be offered at Buck, however, was $14,000. Buck's salaries, Westbrook explained, were "the lowest in the industry." He described the actuarial trainee position, moreover, as involving much tedious and mundane work. The duties of a trainee initially include proofreading letters written for clients by more senior personnel, to assure that mathematical computations are correct and that the letters are free of grammatical errors; reviewing and correcting any data submitted by a client; working with various computer data evaluation systems; and tasks such as copying documents and monitoring the final typing of client letters. Later in the training phase a trainee writes memoranda and drafts paragraphs to be used in client letters. Employees work in the actuarial training position for a period of one to four years,
after which they can advance to the position of "first assistant actuary" and from there to the higher levels of responsibility available at Buck. Westbrook stated that Griffin expressed little interest in the mundane aspects of the job; he told Westbrook that he thought he would complete the training period in a minimum amount of time, a statement that Westbrook considered "unrealistic." In Westbrook's view, Griffin placed too much emphasis on the actuarial examinations he had passed; Buck was more interested in practical work experience than in examinations.
Westbrook recalled Griffin's inquiry about the requirements for becoming a partner at Buck. He agreed that he had told Griffin that attaining the position of "consulting actuary," the highest position available at Buck, was difficult, but denied using words such as "reserved for a select few." Westbrook explained his reference to the friend who was a "Phi Beta Kappa" by saying that he had used it to illustrate to Griffin that academic excellence alone did not guarantee success.
Westbrook testified that after the interview, which he recalled as lasting about an hour, he discovered that Sic agreed with him that Griffin should not be hired. Sic prepared a letter of rejection, and discussed the matter with Westbrook again on February 3, 1978, just before the letter was sent. During that discussion, Sic mentioned that Griffin had raised the fact of his being black several times during her interview of him. Westbrook told Sic that they should prepare notes on the interviews in case there was ...