Job-Discrimination Cases Get Mixed Court Response

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court gave a mixed response to three unrelated job discrimination-complaint cases Monday, ruling favorably for employers in two of them and vindicating alleged bias victims in the third.

The court set aside a lower-court ruling that USX Corp. illegally discriminated against blacks at a steel mill and in a separate case it limited deadlines for filing some lawsuits that accuse employers of illegal sex bias. But the court rejected appeals by an iron workers union found to have discriminated against blacks.

In the USX case, the justices told the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to restudy it in light of their decision last week making it far more difficult for workers to win some job-bias lawsuits.

The appeals court had ruled that USX, formerly known as U.S. Steel Corp., discriminated against blacks who applied for non-skilled production and maintenance jobs at the steel mill.

A federal judge in 1983 ordered USX to end discrimination in the hiring of production and maintenance employees at the Fairless Hills, Pa., steel mill and awarded more than $12.3 million to those represented by a class action suit.

The judge ruled that statistics showing the disparity between the percentages of black applicants and black hires proved that USX violated a federal anti-bias law, known as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But the judge said intentional discrimination had not been proved.

The 3rd Circuit court, in considering the ensuing cross-appeals, ruled that both a Title VII violation and intentional discrimination had been proved.

In the appeal acted on Monday, lawyers for USX said the 3rd Circuit court ruling means ``an employer's only protection against Title VII liability is to adopt a quota system.''

The Supreme Court cited a similar rationale last week when the justices, in a major civil rights decision, split 5-4 in strengthening employers' defenses against charges of bias.

In a second job-discrimination case, the court on Monday threw out a suit by three women who said a change in the seniority system at an AT&T plant in Illinois discriminated against them. …