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U.S. Supreme Court

Hazelwood Sch. Dist. v. United States, 433 U.S. 299 (1977)

Hazelwood School District v. United States,

No. 76-255

Argued April 27, 1977

Decided June 27, 1977

433 U.S. 299


The United States brought this action against petitioners, the Hazelwood, Mo., School District, located in St. Louis County, and various officials, alleging that they were engaged in a "pattern or practice" of teacher employment discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, which became applicable to petitioners as public employers on March 24, 1972. The District Court, following trial, ruled that the Government had failed to establish a pattern or practice of discrimination. The Court of Appeals reversed, in part on the ground that the trial court's analysis of statistical data rested on an irrelevant comparison of Negro teachers to Negro pupils in Hazelwood, instead of a comparison of Negro teachers in Hazelwood to Negro teachers in the relevant labor market area, which it found to consist of St. Louis County and the city of St. Louis, where 15.4% of the teachers are Negro. In the 1972-1973 and 1973-1974 school years, only 1.4% and 1.8%, respectively, of Hazelwood's teachers were Negroes, and this statistical disparity, particularly when viewed against the background of Hazelwood's teacher hiring procedures, was held to constitute a prima facie case of a pattern or practice of racial discrimination. Petitioners contend that the statistical data on which the Court of Appeals relied cannot sustain a finding of a violation of Title VII.

Held: The Court of Appeals erred in disregarding the statistical data in the record dealing with Hazelwood's hiring after it became subject to Title VII, and the court should have remanded the case to the District Court for further findings as to the relevant labor market area and for an ultimate determination whether Hazelwood has engaged in a pattern or practice of employment discrimination since March 24, 1972. Though the Court of Appeals was correct in the view that a proper comparison was between the racial composition of Hazelwood's teaching staff and the racial composition of the qualified public school teacher population in the relevant labor market, it erred in disregarding the possibility that the prima facie statistical proof in the record might, at the trial court level, be rebutted by statistics dealing with Hazelwood's post-Act hiring practices such as with respect to the number of Negroes hired compared

Page 433 U. S. 300

to the total number of Negro applicants. For, once a prima facie case has been established by statistical work-force disparities, the employer must be given an opportunity to show that "the claimed discriminatory pattern is a product of pre-Act hiring, rather than unlawful post-Act discrimination," Teamsters v. United States, 431 U. S. 324, 431 U. S. 360. The record showed, but the Court of Appeals, in its conclusions, ignored, that, for the two-year period 1972-1974, 3.7% of the new teachers hired in Hazelwood were Negroes. The court accepted the Government's argument that the relevant labor market was St. Louis County and the city of St. Louis without considering petitioners' contention that St. Louis County alone (where the figure was 5.7%) was the proper area because the city of St. Louis attempts to maintain a 50% Negro teaching staff. The difference between the figures may well be significant, since the disparity between 3.7% and 5.7% may be sufficiently small to weaken the Government's other proof, while the disparity between 3.7% and 15.4% may be sufficiently large to reinforce it. In determining what figures provide the most accurate basis for comparison to the hiring figures at Hazelwood, numerous other factors, moreover, must also be evaluated by the trial court. Pp. 433 U. S. 306-313.

534 F.2d 805, vacated and remanded.

STEWART, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and BRENNAN WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., post, p. 433 U. S. 313, and WHITE, J., post, p. 433 U. S. 347, filed concurring opinions. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 433 U. S. 314.

Page 433 U. S. 301

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