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Segar v. Smith
United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
738 F.2d 1249 (1984)
Henry Segar (plaintiff), a Black man, was an agent at the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (agency) (defendant). Segar filed a class-action suit, contending that the agency racially discriminated against Black agents in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). The district court held that there was pervasive discrimination against Black agents at the GS-11 level (the eleventh paygrade for government employees) and above, which prevented the agents from obtaining promotions. The decisive criteria for promotion decisions, including supervisory evaluations and disciplinary history, were themselves tainted with discrimination. For instance, the district court found that discrimination had skewed evaluations of Black agents. However, the district court had no way of knowing how a fair evaluation might have affected a particular agent’s chances for obtaining a particular promotion. Additionally, the district court found that Black agents were disciplined more frequently and more severely than White agents committing similar infractions. Yet the district court had no way of knowing exactly what effect the disproportionate disciplinary sanctions had on a particular agent’s chances for particular promotions. Hence, the district court did not conduct individualized hearings to determine backpay awards. Instead, the district court decided to order a class-wide backpay award for Black agents at the GS-11 level and above. The agency appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Wright, J.)
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