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Sheehan v. Purolator Inc.

decided: February 12, 1988.

PATRICIA SHEEHAN, ELIZABETH HENOCH, AND KAYHAN HELLRIEGEL, ON BEHALF OF THEMSELVES AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, APPELLANTS,
v.
PUROLATOR, INC. AND PUROLATOR COURIER CORP., APPELLEES



Appeals from two judgments entered in the Eastern District of New York, I. Leo Glasser, District Judge, denying respectively class certification and appellants' individual claims of sex discrimination in employment.

Timbers, Meskill and Kearse, Circuit Judges. Kearse, Circuit Judge, dissenting.

Author: Timbers

TIMBERS, Circuit Judge:

Patricia Sheehan and Elizabeth Henoch appeal from judgments entered after a bench trial in the Eastern District of New York, I. Leo Glasser, District Judge, denying respectively class certification (December 26, 1984) and appellants' individual claims of sex discrimination in employment (June 2, 1987). 103 F.R.D. 641.

The action was commenced under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended and codified at 42 U.S.C. ยง 2000e et seq. (1982).

On appeal, appellants claim that the court erred in denying class certification and in denying their individual claims. They raise a number of separate claims of error, including the following: that the court improperly evaluated their statistical evidence; that it erroneously required affidavits from class members; that it ignored probative evidence of discrimination; and that it failed to consider the alleged discriminatory atmosphere at the company.

We hold that the court's findings were not clearly erroneous. We affirm.

I.

We shall summarize only those facts believed necessary to an understanding of the issues raised on appeal.

Appellees Purolator Courier Corp. ("Courier") and its parent, Purolator, Inc. (now defunct), provide pickup and overnight delivery of materials by ground and air throughout the United States. At all relevant times, Courier had corporate headquarters in New Hyde Park, New York and more than 200 offices, terminals and garages across the country (collectively referred to as "the field"). Courier employed over 10,000 persons, including approximately 1,100 salaried (exempt) employees, on a full or part-time basis.*fn1

Appellants, who held salaried positions with Courier, collectively alleged in their complaint filed February 19, 1982 that appellees engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination against their female employees in job assignment, pay and fringe benefits, promotion, and transfer; and that they maintained and condoned a working environment of intimidation and sexual harassment of female employees. Appellants also alleged that appellees retaliated against female employees who objected to the discriminatory policies and practices. Appellants sought class certification, injunctive relief and damages.

Backing up for a moment, Sheehan was hired in December 1971 as an office manager at Courier's corporate headquarters at a salary of $12,000 per year. After receiving several salary increases, she was promoted to Staff Vice President in charge of purchasing and office services at a salary of $28,000 per year. In January 1981, she and other women at Courier filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") alleging class-wide discrimination.

In March 1981, Courier's new president implemented a company-wide reorganization which included consolidating the Purchasing Department into the Transportation Department. Sheila Casey, a Courier Staff Vice President with more than twenty years tenure, became Corporate Vice President in charge of all purchasing, a newly created position. Sheehan at that time was to report to Casey, who in turn was to report to Paul Wolfrum, an officer of Courier. Sheehan retained her title, continued to coordinate office supply purchases, and was asked to take on added responsibilities. Courier asserts that, after Sheehan was told about the reorganization, she became uncooperative and contentious and frequently was absent or late. She filed a second charge with the EEOC, and then commenced the instant action.*fn2

Sheehan claims that top management unlawfully retaliated against her for filing a discrimination claim, thus goading her into insubordination. Sheehan frequently complained that after the reorganization she did not know what her job duties were. After repeated attempts to clarify her duties, Wolfrum and Casey met with her on August 5, 1981. After Sheehan left the meeting twice, Wolfrum told her to return or face termination. She replied, "Then I am terminated." Courier fired her for cause and denied severance benefits.

Henoch was hired by Courier as a secretary in 1967. From then until March 1983, she worked in Courier's legal department at corporate headquarters. A non-lawyer, she performed para-professional duties, including preparing and filing with the Interstate Commerce Commission ("ICC") Courier's applications for interstate motor carrier operation authority and interstate tariffs. She also prepared protest forms for challenging the applications for motor carrier operating authority filed by the company's competitors. She received a number of staff position promotions, eventually becoming Staff Vice President. She was elected Assistant Corporate Secretary in 1972 and became the highest ranking non-lawyer in the legal department. In 1982 she was earning more than $38,000 per year.

Henoch obtained an ICC practitioner's license. Shortly thereafter, around 1978, massive federal deregulation occurred in the trucking industry. Henoch's duties were changed to encompass almost exclusively tariff work and her position was transferred to another department. She claims that this was a demotion resulting from sex discrimination by her supervisor, General Counsel John Delany. Henoch's job performance declined markedly. She filed charges with the EEOC on or about January 19, 1981 alleging employment discrimination. Courier asserts that changes in the regulatory environment eliminated many of Henoch's former duties. After Courier and its parent merged and moved to a consolidated headquarters in 1984, Henoch was named Director of Tariffs and Regulatory Compliance. She testified that her status improved after that reorganization.

Following our remand in 1981*fn3 and consolidation of the separate cases of Sheehan and Henoch,*fn4 they moved for class certification. The court denied certification. Sheehan v. Purolator, Inc., 103 F.R.D. 641 (E.D.N.Y. 1984). The court analyzed the case as one of disparate impact, requiring proof of discriminatory motive. Id. at 645. This finding has not been challenged on appeal. The court denied class certification on two independent grounds: (1) appellants did not establish the existence of an aggrieved class; and (2) appellants failed to meet typicality requirements.*fn5

Subsequently, on May 27, 1987, after a bench trial, the court dismissed all of appellants' sex discrimination claims on the merits.

This appeal from the court's 1984 and 1987 judgments followed.

Appellants claim that the district court erred in denying class certification and in denying their sex discrimination claims. Specifically, they claim that the court erred (1) in improperly evaluating statistical evidence; (2) in requiring affidavits from class members; (3) in ignoring probative evidence of discrimination; and (4) in failing to ...


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