Dothard v. Rawlinson
Annotate this Case
433 U.S. 321 (1977)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Dothard v. Rawlinson, 433 U.S. 321 (1977)
Dothard v. Rawlinson
Argued April 19, 1977
Decided June 27, 1977
433 U.S. 321
After her application for employment as a "correctional counselor" (prison guard) in Alabama was rejected because she failed to meet the minimum 120-pound weight requirement of an Alabama statute, which also establishes a height minimum of 5 feet 2 inches, appellee Rawlinson (hereafter appellee) filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and ultimately brought a class action against appellant corrections officials challenging the statutory height and weight requirements and a regulation establishing gender criteria for assigning correctional counselors to "contact" positions (positions requiring close physical proximity to inmates) as violative of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, inter alia. A three-judge District Court decided in appellee's favor. On the basis of national statistics as to the comparative height and weight of men and women indicating that Alabama's statutory standards would exclude over 4% of the female population but less than 1% of the male population, the court found that, with respect to such standards, appellee had made out a prima facie case of unlawful sex discrimination, which appellants had failed to rebut. The court also found the challenged regulation impermissible under Title VII as being based on stereotyped characterizations of the sexes, and, rejecting appellants' "bona fide occupational qualification" defense under § 703(e) of Title VII, ruled that being male was not such a qualification for the job of correctional counselor in a "contact" position in an Alabama male maximum security penitentiary.
1. The District Court did not err in holding that Title VII prohibited application of the statutory height and weight requirements to appellee and the class she represents. Pp. 433 U. S. 328-332.
(a) To establish a prima facie case of employment discrimination, a plaintiff need only show that the facially neutral standards in question, such as Alabama's height and weight standards, select applicants for hire in a significantly discriminatory pattern, and here the showing of the disproportionate impact of the height and weight standards on women based on national statistics, rather than on comparative statistics
of actual applicants, sufficed to make out a prima facie case. Pp. 433 U. S. 328-331.
(b) Appellants failed to rebut the prima facie case of discrimination on the basis that the height and weight requirements are job-related in that they have a relationship to the strength essential to efficient job performance as a correctional counselor, where appellants produced no evidence correlating such requirements with the requisite amount of strength thought essential to good job performance, and in fact failed to offer evidence of any kind in specific justification of the statutory standards. P. 433 U. S. 331.
2. In the particular circumstances of this case, the District Court erred in rejecting appellants' contention that the regulation in question falls within the narrow ambit of the "bona fide occupational qualification" exception of § 703(e), it appearing from the evidence that Alabama maintains a prison system where violence is the order of the day, inmate access to guards is facilitated by dormitory living arrangements, every correctional institution is understaffed, and a substantial portion of the inmate population is composed of sex offenders mixed at random with other prisoners, and that therefore the use of women guards in "contact" positions in the maximum security male penitentiaries would pose a substantial security problem, directly linked to the sex of the prison guard. Pp. 433 U. S. 332-337.
418 F.Supp. 1169, affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
STEWART, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which POWELL and STEVENS, JJ., joined; in all but Part II of which BURGER, C.J., and BLACKMUN and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined; and in all but Part III of which BRENNAN and MARSHALL, JJ., joined. REHNQUIST, J., filed an opinion concurring in the result and concurring in part, in which BURGER, C.J., and BLACKMUN, J., joined, post, p. 433 U. S. 337. MARSHALL, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which BRENNAN, J., joined, post, p. 433 U. S. 340. WHITE, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 433 U. S. 347.