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COPELAND v. SECRETARY OF LABOR

March 31, 1976

Dolores J. Copeland, Plaintiff
v.
Secretary of Labor, Defendant


Gesell, D.J.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: GESELL

GESELL, D.J.:

This is a class action alleging sex discrimination. A class of approximately 24 females employed in various branches of the Department of Labor's Directorate of Data Automation (DDA) has been certified. Plaintiff is the representative of the class.

 On the eve of trial following extensive discovery and rulings on numerous pretrial motions, a stipulation was presented and approved which resolved the merits of the sex discrimination claim against the Secretary. This stipulation reads in pertinent part as follows:

 
"1. . . . [The] Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration, Directorate of Data Automation of the Department of Labor, and its predecessor organizations have subjected her and the other members of the class to sex-based discrimination in assignments, training, performance evaluations, promotions, and working conditions, all in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., as amended by the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16.
 
* * *
 
"3. . . . In order to expedite the resolution of this litigation, Defendant does not contest the allegations of a pattern and practice of sex discrimination contained in Plaintiff's complaint, as described in Paragraph No. 1 of this Stipulation."

 In addition to requiring the development of an affirmative action plan for all female employees in positions requiring knowledge of data processing, the stipulation further provided in paragraphs 5 and 6:

 
"5. The injury or monetary impact, if any, suffered by Plaintiff or any other participating member of the class certified in this action on July 2, 1975, shall be determined after evidentiary hearing to be scheduled as promptly as practicable. Defendant acknowledges that after Plaintiff or other participating member of the class has presented a claim before the Court, Defendant carries the burden of affirmatively showing that sex discrimination has not monetarily or otherwise affected the individual class member involved.
 
"6. Plaintiff and Defendant agree to be bound and abide by the determinations made after the evidentiary hearing on Plaintiff Copeland's claim for retroactive promotion and back pay and there shall be no appeal taken therefrom."

 Pursuant to the stipulation, an evidentiary hearing was promptly held as to Ms. Copeland's individual claim. Numerous witnesses were heard and extensive documentary evidence submitted. The matter has now been briefed. This Memorandum resolves that claim.

 Ms. Copeland seeks a retroactive promotion from GS-13 to GS-14 effective as of April 1, 1972, with full back pay, and assurance that she hereafter will be given assignments consistent with a GS-14 grade, together with whatever training may be appropriate for such duties. The Secretary disputes her showing of competence and professional abilities by asserting that she "is the victim of her own personality and inability to perform within the Department of Labor, not of sex discrimination." Thus the issue is drawn whether the Secretary has met his admittedly heavy burden of establishing that in spite of the conceded pattern of sex discrimination continuously affecting Ms. Copeland's work she would not have received a GS-14 with duties and responsibilities commensurate with that grade.

 Ms. Copeland is a black, age 55, who graduated from Hampton Institute in 1942 with a BS degree. After working for the War Department and the Bureau of Engraving, where her performance received excellent appraisals, she began her employment in July, 1967, with the Department of Labor, Washington, D.C., in data processing. She started as a GS-12 systems analyst and was later promoted to GS-13 in May, 1970. Plaintiff has long believed that her career in the Department has been thwarted by discriminatory acts based on her race or sex. On a number of occasions she voiced complaints claiming denial of opportunity and when nothing tangible resulted she eventually filed a formal complaint alleging race and sex discrimination in June, 1973. This class suit followed when her complaint was rejected by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management of the Department of Labor on November 8, 1974. *fn1" That determination read in pertinent part as follows:

 
". . . Your allegation of sex discrimination is supported by the file and I, therefore, am disposed to find that a pattern of sex discrimination exists in the Departmental Data Processing Center (DDPC). This discrimination manifests itself in the lack of leadership responsibility assignments given to qualified women professionals, including yourself. However, the file does not indicate that your non-promotion to the GS-14 level was the result of this sex discrimination.

 Advancement to GS-14 is not, of course, automatic. It is achieved in two ways: competitively when a GS-14 vacancy is advertised and, under Civil Service regulations, individuals deemed qualified are certified by a panel and choice is made from among those certified; noncompetitively by material modification when an individual gradually assumes added responsibilities growing out of assigned duties and in effect alters the status of the original job. While each process is more complex than this summary suggests, it is apparent that one reaches GS-14, a high grade, only after gaining special qualifications which meet the needs of specific jobs. In general, the GS-14 grade in the unit where Ms. Copeland worked demanded among other qualities the ability to manage or direct the work of others as well as professional competence in the computer field.

 The environment of the Directorate where plaintiff Copeland has worked was frenetic. In less than a year and a half -- from December 1968 to April 1970 -- the data processing unit grew from an organization having one division and two branches with rather minor responsibility for providing data processing support to other units in the Department of Labor into an organization having three divisions and a total of eight branches with theoretical responsibility for the full spectrum of data processing services. During the next several months, efforts were largely directed toward becoming truly operational. The unit acquired a new third-generation IBM 360-65 computer and continued to hire a large number of employees. The change in the organization is well demonstrated by numbers: in December of 1968, the Directorate had 37 government employees (16 professionals); by December of 1970, the Directorate had more than 100 government employees (more than 60 professionals). In addition, to meet the demand for its services, the unit engaged the services of a number of private computer firms which assigned numerous additional employees on site to assist. Growth continued over the next three years and was accompanied by several internal reorganizations. By the end of 1972 there were 175 employees, which included 100 professionals. By this time almost all computer activities were centralized in this department. During this growth various audits and studies focusing on performance and efficiency occurred with emphasis on management objectives.

 Inevitably there were increasing pressures for decentralization. Various offices which had been serviced by the Directorate sought to take over or enlarge responsibility for their own systems using their own staffs. At least by April, 1974, the focus was pointedly on decentralization. Studies revealed serious management and personnel deficiencies and the Directorate was thereafter split up and many of the functions assigned back to various offices. A study of the unit completed May, 1975, found and described many questionable management practices under the following headings: (1) "Protecting Individuals in their Jobs," (2) "Misuse of Management Resources," (3) "Non-uniform Shift Schedule," (4) "Use/Misuse of Contractors," ...


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