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SHULTZ v. SAXONBURG CERAMICS

July 15, 1970

George P. Shultz, Secretary of Labor, United States Department of Labor, Plaintiff
v.
Saxonburg Ceramics, Inc., Defendant


Weber, D.J.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: WEBER

WEBER, D.J.:

 This is a suit by the Secretary of Labor under Section 17 of the Fair Labor Standards Act to enjoin the defendant company from violating the equal pay provisions of that statute and to order the payment of back wages resulting from defendant's violation of the equal pay provisions since the effective date of the Act, June 11, 1964.

 Defendant is a Pennsylvania corporation organized in November 1964 as a successor to a prior corporation of the same name whose assets were acquired and whose liabilities were assumed. Job descriptions and hourly pay rates as developed through prior experience of the predecessor corporation and its union contracts were continued but with the coming of new ownership and a new management, reorganization of various job procedures and job assignments were studied and changes were instituted.

 Defendant operates a plant in Saxonburg, Pennsylvania, which produces ceramic products. This action concerns itself only with the Extrusion Department of the plant where defendant regularly operated four vertical extrusion presses and one horizontal extrusion press, generally running these presses three shifts a day. These presses were operated variously by one or two operators for each shift. Other employees in the Extrusion Department were assigned other non-operating duties. Prior to a reorganization of job classification on December 14, 1965, the classification of employees in the Extrusion Department was among Extrusion Press Operators; Extrusion Press Operator and Die Setter; Pug Mill Operator; Pug Mill Feeder and Tube Breakers.

 Specifically, this action is concerned with the female employees of the Extrusion Department who have performed the job entitled "Extrusion Press Operator" and male employees who performed the job which defendant entitled "Extrusion Press Operator-Die Setter" prior to the December 14, 1965 reorganization. About 10-12 women and 3-4 men were involved.

 Prior to December 14, 1965 females were assigned to the job "Extrusion Press Operator" and males were assigned to the job of "Extrusion Press Operator and Die Setter". The male job assignment received 30 cents per hour more than the female job assignment. It is the contention of the plaintiff here that the work done by the male "Extrusion Press Operator and Die Setter" and the work done by the female "Extrusion Press Operator" were equal and required equal pay. On December 14, 1965, those males formerly classified as "Extrusion Press Operator and Die Setter" were removed from all duties connected with the operation of the extrusion presses and were given a new job description as "Set-Up and Service". Thereafter, all the women employees continued to act as operators of the extrusion presses and their assignment was enlarged to include all presses, two of which were formerly operated by male employees only. The former male press operators were removed from all press operation duties and given the new set-up and service assignment. The basic 30 cents per hour differential in wages between the female operators and the former male operators was continued, but there is no contention by plaintiff that the work performed by the two new classifications after December 14, 1965 was equal. Defendant argues that the revision of the tasks between men and women and the installation of a plant-wide incentive system terminated defendant's duty to pay the women press operators the former higher male rate which men were paid when both men and women operated the presses.

 The plaintiff alleges that the changes which defendant relies on have no bearing on the continued right of women press operators to have their pay raised to the former higher male rate which the males were paid as Extrusion Press Operators -- Die Setters for work which was equal to the work performed by the female extrusion press operators. After the change of December 14, 1965 when all former male operators were removed to the new job classification, new male employees were hired as "Extrusion Press Operators" at the same pay rate as the female Extrusion Press Operators received.

 From all of the testimony in the case it appears that for many years men and women extrusion press operators worked interchangeably, at least on presses 1, 2 and 4. The operation of the horizontal extrusion press (pug mill) and press No. 3 which was a press for larger products operated by a single operator seemed to have been assigned exclusively to male operators. In December 1959 the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania enacted an "Equal Pay Act" prohibiting pay differential for the same work on the basis of sex. At this time three duties were removed from the female extrusion press operators; the installing or removing of the G.C. holder (29 pounds) or the small holder adapter (18 1/2 pounds); knocking the clay plug into the cylinder when changing clay; and steering and pulling the rack wagon. These were operations which the female operators had previously performed and which they demonstrated their ability to perform during the trial of this case in the courtroom. This distinction in the tasks performed by the male operators and the female operators was one based upon weight lifting ability and physical effort required, although the female operators had performed these tasks before. Prior to the defendant's first labor contract, in 1961, the jobs were classified by sex as "Extrusion Press Operator -- Male" and "Extrusion Press Operator -- Female." In the 1961 labor contract the jobs were identified as "Extrusion Press Operator -- Female" and "Extrusion Press Operator and Die Setter -- Male". The additional description "and Die Setter" was added to the male job title beginning with the 1961 labor contract. Apparently this was in recognition of the three duties which were assigned exclusively to male press operators after 1959. The defendant continued to classify the female operators as "Extrusion Press Operator" and the men operators as "Extrusion Press Operator and Die Setter" until its September 1965 labor contract and from and after 1963 the hour rate between the male and the female operators provided 30 cents more per hour for the male operators. The effective date of the application of the statute in question to this case is June 11, 1964 and from that date until December 1965 no male was employed as an "Extrusion Press Operator" and no female was employed as an "Extrusion Press Operator and Die Setter". Up to September 1965 under the prevailing union contract the sexual designation of these jobs was preserved and there was no way that males could have been classified in the "Extrusion Press Operator" job or females classified in the "Extrusion Press Operator and Die Setter" job. It is through this history that the basic pattern of differences in the pay rates for males and females in this plant was established and in the opinion of the court was continued despite changes in job classifications which attempted to differentiate between the work assigned to the two sexes.

 From and after December 14, 1965 there is no dispute that the jobs performed by the "Extrusion Press Operators" and the new description "Press Set-Up and Service", to which all males were removed, were different and unequal. However, the pattern of a 30 cents per hour pay differential under which the female operators had worked was not changed and the plaintiff argues that this job reclassification in effect resulted in a 30 cents per hour wage rate reduction for female workers because they had been entitled to the same pay rate as male operators from and after the effective date of the statute, June 11, 1964.

 The essential distinction that defendant has attempted to draw between the work performed by male operators and by female operators ever since the adoption of the Pennsylvania Pay Law was based upon weight lifting and physical force. The most striking single illustration of this was the handling of the G.C. holder which weighs 29 pounds, and which has the size and shape of a bowling ball. At the trial one of the female operators demonstrated the facility with which she handled this appliance and it was shown that before the distinction in job classification was drawn the female operators had regularly handled this appliance. It was also testified that women had regularly performed all of the tasks prior to 1959 which were removed from their job classification that year and had performed them during the night shift when there was no male operator present to give any assistance. While the women were forbidden to take down or put up the G.C. holder into the machine the women operators stripped down the die assembly and installed or removed it from the G.C. holder and regularly carried the G.C. holder and the die holder and adapter to and from her work bench. As for the prohibition against women knocking the clay plug into the cylinder women regularly took the clay plug out of the cylinder as the male operator knocked it into the cylinder, and as for the prohibition against women pulling or steering the rack wagon women continued to aid by pushing the rack wagon as the male pulled it.

 Findings of Fact

 1. Prior to 1961 the job classification in Defendant's Extrusion Department were:

 
(1) Extrusion Press Operator -- Male;
 
(2) Extrusion Press Operator -- Female.

 2. After the 1961 labor contract the title of the male job classification was changed to:

 
(1) Extrusion Press Operator and Die Setter -- Male.

 3. Prior to December 1965 on presses numbers 1, 2 and 4, operators worked in pairs without regard to the above job classification. All operators interchangeably performed all duties in connection with the operation of these presses. The production of these presses were laid on boards which weighed up to thirty pounds loaded.

 4. Prior to December 1965 only male-Extrusion Press Operators and Die Setters were permitted to use Press No. 3, which could only be operated by one operator. This press was able to produce larger items. The production of this press was laid on boards which weighed about forty pounds loaded.

 5. There was no substantial difference in the skills required to operate Presses numbers 1, 2 and 4 as compared to Press No. 3.

 6. The rate of production on Press No. 3 was about one-half the rate of the other presses and its operator handled the same number of boards as each of the two operators on the other presses.

 7. About 75% of the production on Press No. 3 required the use of the General Ceramics holder which was heavier than other die holders weighing about 29 pounds. The other presses used the General Ceramics holder at various times during the production runs.

 8. At the time of the adoption of the Pennsylvania Equal Pay Act in December 1959 three duties formerly performed by the Extrusion Press Operators -- Female, were removed from them:

 
(1) Taking down or putting up the General Ceramics holder (29 pounds) or the holder-adapter (18 ...

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