business law? Barbano v. Madison County ?

The “clearly erroneous” standard is applied here, as it is in many cases where appellate courts review trial court determinations. State the test, and say why the appellate court believed that the trial judge’s ruling was not “clearly erroneous.”

2 Answers

  • Anonymous
    8 months ago

    Disparate Treatment: Burdens of Proof

    Barbano v. Madison County - 922 F.2d 139 (2d Cir. 1990) 

    "At the Madison County (New York State) Veterans Service Agency, the position of director became vacant. The County Board of Supervisors created a committee of five men to hold interviews for the position. The committee interviewed Maureen E. Barbano and four others. When she entered the interview room, she heard someone say, “Oh, another woman.” At the beginning of the interview, Donald Greene said he would not consider “some woman” for the position. Greene also asked Barbano some personal questions about her family plans and whether her husband would mind if she transported male veterans. Ms. Barbano answered that the questions were irrelevant and discriminatory. However, Greene replied that the questions were relevant because he did not want to hire a woman who would get pregnant and quit. Another committee member, Newbold, agreed that the questions were relevant, and no committee member said the questions were not relevant.

    None of the interviewers rebuked Greene or objected to the questions, and none of them told Barbano that she need not answer them. Barbano did state that if she decided to have a family she would take no more time off than medically necessary. Greene once again asked whether Barbano’s husband would object to her “running around the country with men” and said he would not want his wife to do it. Barbano said she was not his wife. The interview concluded after Barbano asked some questions about insurance.

    After interviewing several other candidates, the board hired a man. Barbano sued the county for sex discrimination in violation of Title VII, and the district court held in her favor. She was awarded $55,000 in back pay, prejudgment interest, and attorney’s fees. Madison County appealed the judgment of Federal District Judge McAvoy; Barbano cross-appealed, asking for additional damages.

    The court then found that Barbano had established a prima facie case of discrimination under Title VII, thus bringing into issue the appellants’ purported reasons for not hiring her. The appellants provided four reasons why they chose Wagner over Barbano, which the district court rejected either as unsupported by the record or as a pretext for discrimination in light of Barbano’s interview. The district court then found that because of Barbano’s education and experience in social services, the appellants had failed to prove that absent the discrimination, they still would not have hired Barbano. Accordingly, the court awarded Barbano back pay, prejudgment interest, and attorney’s fees. Subsequently, the court denied Barbano’s request for front pay and a mandatory injunction ordering her appointment as director upon the next vacancy. This appeal and cross-appeal followed.

    From the Opinion of FEINBERG, CIRCUIT JUDGE

    Appellants argue that the district court erred in finding that Greene’s statements during the interview showed that the Board discriminated in making the hiring decision, and that there was no direct evidence of discrimination by the Board, making it improper to require that appellants prove that they would not have hired Barbano absent the discrimination. Barbano in turn challenges the adequacy of the relief awarded to her by the district court.

    A. Discrimination

    At the outset, we note that Judge McAvoy’s opinion predated Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, 490 U.S. 228, 109 S. Ct. 1775, 104 L. Ed. 2d 268 (1990), in which the Supreme Court made clear that a “pretext” case should be analyzed differently from a “mixed motives” case. Id. 109 S. Ct. at 1788-89. Judge McAvoy, not having the benefit of the Court’s opinion in Price Waterhouse, did not clearly distinguish between the two types of cases in analyzing the alleged discrimination. For purposes of this appeal, we do not think it is crucial how the district court categorized the case. Rather, we need only concern ourselves with whether the district court’s findings of fact are supported by the record and whether the district court applied the proper legal standards in light of its factual findings.

    Whether the case is one of pretext or mixed motives, the plaintiff bears the burden of persuasion on the issue of whether gender played a part in the employment decision. Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, at 1788. Appellants contend that Barbano did not sustain her burden of proving discrimination because the only evidence of discrimination involved Greene’s statements during the interview, and Greene was an elected official over whom the other members of the Board exercised no control. Thus, appellants maintain, since the hiring decision was made by the 19-member board, evidence of discrimination by one member does not establish that the Board discriminated in making the hiring decision.

    We agree that discrimination by one individual does not necessarily imply that a collective decision-making body of which the individual is a member also discriminated. However, the record before us supports the district court’s finding that the Board discriminated in making the hiring decision.

    First, there is little doubt that Greene’s statements during the interview were discriminatory. He said he would not consider “some woman” for the position. His questioning Barbano about whether she would get pregnant and quit was also discriminatory, since it was unrelated to a bona fide occupational qualification. King v. Trans World Airlines, 738 F.2d 255, 258 n.2 (8th Cir. 1984). Similarly, Greene’s questions about whether Barbano’s husband would mind if she had to “run around the country with men,” and that he would not want his wife to do it, were discriminatory, since once again the questions were unrelated to bona fide occupational qualifications. Hopkins, at 1786.

    Moreover, the import of Greene’s discriminatory questions was substantial, since apart from one question about her qualifications, none of the interviewers asked Barbano about other areas that allegedly formed the basis for selecting a candidate. Thus, Greene’s questioning constituted virtually the entire interview, and so the district court properly found that the interview itself was discriminatory.

    Next, given the discriminatory tenor of the interview, and the acquiescence of the other Committee members to Greene’s line of questioning, it follows that the judge could find that those present at the interview, and not merely Greene, discriminated against Barbano. Judge McAvoy pointed out that the Chairman of the Committee, Newbold, thought Greene’s discriminatory questions were relevant. Significantly, Barbano protested that Greene’s questions were discriminatory, but no one agreed with her or told her that she need not answer. Indeed, no one even attempted to steer the interview in another direction. This knowing and informed toleration of discriminatory statements by those participating in the interview constitutes evidence of discrimination by all those present. That each member was independently elected to the Board does not mean that the Committee itself was unable to control the course of the interview. The Committee had a choice of how to conduct the interview, and the court could find that the Committee exercised that choice in a plainly discriminatory fashion.

    This discrimination directly affected the hiring decision. At the end of the interviewing process, the interviewers evaluated the candidates, and on that basis submitted a recommendation as to which candidate to hire for the position. “Evaluation does not occur in a vacuum. By definition, when evaluating a candidate to fill a vacant position, one compares that candidate against other eligible candidates.” Berl v. County of Westchester, 849 F.2d 712, 715 (2d Cir. 1988). Appellants stipulated that Barbano was qualified for the position. Again, because Judge McAvoy could find that the evaluation of Barbano was biased by gender discrimination, the judge could also find that the Committee’s recommendation to hire Wagner, which was the result of a weighing of the relative merits of Barbano, Wagner and the other eligible candidates, was necessarily tainted by discrimination.

    The Board in turn unanimously accepted the Committee’s recommendation to hire Wagner, and so the Board’s hiring decision was made in reliance upon a discriminatory recommendation. The Supreme Court in Hopkins v. Price Waterhouse found that a collective decision-making body can discriminate by relying upon discriminatory recommendations, and we are persuaded that the reasoning in that case applies here as well."

  • Anonymous
    8 months ago

    You CANNOT be serious!  "State the test and 'say why'?"

    Here's a thought - open a text book and do your own homework.

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