Vaughn Case Brief

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Page 517
918 F.2d 517
54 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. 870,
55 Empl. Prac. Dec. P 40,455, 59 USLW 2378
Emma S. VAUGHN, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Robert EDEL, et al., Defendants,
Texaco, Inc., Defendant-Appellee.
No. 90-3181
Summary Calendar.
United States Court of Appeals,
Fifth Circuit.
Dec. 6, 1990.

Page 518

        Kenneth J. Beck, Harvey, La., for plaintiff-appellant.

        Albert H. Hanemann, Jr., Lemle & Kelleher, John D. Fitzmorris, Jr., Legal Dept. New Orleans, La., for Texaco.

Page 519

        Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

        Before GEE, SMITH, and WIENER, Circuit Judges.

        WIENER, Circuit Judge:

        Plaintiff-Appellant Emma S. Vaughn contests the judgment rendered in favor of defendant Texaco, Inc., dismissing with prejudice Vaughn's race and sex discrimination suit filed pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 2000e et seq. Because the magistrate clearly erred in finding no racial discrimination, we reverse.

I

Procedural History

        Vaughn filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which determined that the evidence did not establish a violation of Title VII. She then filed this lawsuit against Texaco and against Roger Keller, manager of the Land Department for much of Vaughn's tenure with Texaco; Ronald O'Dwyer, who succeeded Keller as manager; and Robert Edel, chief contract analyst and Vaughn's supervisor. When Texaco assumed responsibility for the individual defendants, Vaughn agreed to their dismissal as defendants. The parties consented to proceedings before a magistrate who, finding as a "matter of law" that Vaughn's firing did not constitute racial discrimination, dismissed the suit. Vaughn timely appealed. 1

II

A. Operable Facts

        In August 1979, Vaughn, a black female attorney, became an associate contract analyst in Texaco's Land Department. Her supervisors were Edel and Alvin Earl Hatton, assistant chief contract analyst. In Vaughn's early years with Texaco she was promoted first to contract analyst and then to petroleum contract analyst. During this period she was the "highest ranked contract analyst" in the department.

        The events leading to this dispute began on April 16, 1985, the day after Vaughn had returned from a second maternity leave. On that day, Edel complained to Vaughn about the low volume of her prior work and the excessive number of people who had visited her office. Vaughn later spoke to Keller about Edel's criticism. In a memorandum concerning this discussion, Keller wrote that he had told Vaughn that he had been told that Vaughn's productivity "was very low"; that he "had become aware for some time of the excessive visiting by predominantly blacks in her office behind closed doors"; and that "the visiting had a direct bearing on her productivity." Keller then told Vaughn, as he noted in his memo, that "she was allowing herself to become a black matriarch within Texaco" and "that this role was preventing her from doing her primary work for the Company and that it must stop."

        Keller's remarks offended Vaughn, so she sought the advice of a friend who was an attorney in Texaco's Legal Department. Keller learned of this meeting and of Vaughn's belief that he was prejudiced. To avoid charges of race discrimination, Keller, as he later testified, told Edel "not [to] have any confrontations with Ms. Vaughn about her work." Keller added that "[i]f he [Edel] was dissatisfied, let it ride. If it got serious, then see [Keller]."

        Between April 1985 and April 1987 when Vaughn was fired, neither Edel nor Hatton expressed criticism of Vaughn's work to her. During this period all annual written evaluations of Vaughn's performance (which, incidentally, Vaughn never saw) were "satisfactory." Vaughn also received a merit salary increase, albeit the minimum, for...
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