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EEOC v. Dial Corporation

United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
469 F.3d 735 (8th Cir. 2006)


Dial Corporation (Dial) (defendant) operated a factory producing canned meats. Entry-level employees worked in a packing area, which required physical duties, including lifting and carrying 35 pounds of sausage (up to 18,000 pounds per day) and walking four miles each workday. Men and women in packing area did the same job. Packing area employees experienced higher rates of injury than other workers at Dial’s plant. In 1996, Dial instituted safety measures aimed at reducing the number of injuries among packing area employees. In 2000, Dial began using a strength test to screen potential employees. The test required potential employees to carry and load 35-pound bars onto a raised platform while an occupational therapist and plant nurse, Martha Lutenegger, made notations about performance. Lutenegger made the hiring decisions, and there was evidence that she marked some women as failing when they actually passed. After the test’s introduction, the number of new women hires dropped to 15 percent, compared with 46 percent the previous three years. In 2002, only 8 percent of female applicants passed. Male applicants passed the test at a rate of 97 percent. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the EEOC) (plaintiff) sued Dial on behalf of 54 women who were denied employment after taking the strength test, alleging unlawful sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. At trial, Dial and the EEOC offered competing expert testimony about whether the strength test was job related. A jury found that Dial had engaged in a pattern or practice of intentional discrimination, and the district court held the strength test resulted in unlawful disparate impact on female applicants, which Dial failed to rebut. The jury awarded compensatory damages, and the judge awarded the plaintiffs back pay and health benefits. Dial appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Murphy, J.)

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