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LEFTWICH v. UNITED STATES STEEL CORP.

May 31, 1979

James LEFTWICH, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES STEEL CORPORATION, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: COHILL

I.

FINDINGS OF FACT

 Plaintiff, James Leftwich, is a black man who was hired by defendant, United States Steel Corporation, on February 11, 1964.

 Between 1964 and March of 1973 the plaintiff had worked up through the ranks of the defendant corporation's Duquesne Works in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, and had achieved the position of accounts payable clerk. He was the first salaried black employee in his division at United States Steel. There was testimony at the trial establishing that the plaintiff was not accepted well by all of his white co-workers and especially by some of his supervisors, who subjected him to ridicule. From 1964 until 1971 or 1972 his supervisor was a Mr. McCarthy who openly expressed his dislike of blacks. However, until 1973, his employment history with the defendant was uneventful, and the plaintiff was a satisfactory employee. The accounts payable position which the plaintiff held in early 1973 was classified as "Job Class 5."

 On April 8, 1973, plaintiff was promoted to a temporary "Job Class 6" job, which was to be open through December 29, 1973, due to vacations of other employees. This position was "incentive clerk" in the electric furnace division of the Duquesne Works. Plaintiff had been given a brochure to read on the incentive plan involved in this job and was instructed on the details of the job by his supervisor, Mike Nestor, before actually assuming the position. The job involved computing the incentive pay for employees who worked at the electric steel furnace. The normal break-in period for this job is a short one, and there is no formal training program for it. Other employees learned it in a short period of time.

 The previous incentive clerk had been one Richard Guzewicz, a white man. When Mr. Guzewicz left that job he moved to another part of the plant. Therefore from March, 1973 to September, 1973, Mr. Guzewicz did not provide much assistance to the plaintiff in learning his new job.

 Mr. Gerald Heim, a white employee who followed the plaintiff in the incentive clerk position, testified that he believed that he received more thorough training than had plaintiff. Mr. Leftwich claimed he was given the manual to read prior to beginning the job and that he was not given on-the-job training. Mr. Heim claimed that when he was assigned the job, Mr. Guzewicz had sat down with him for 1 1/2 days of one-to-one training; Mr. Heim further stated that he could not have learned the job by simply reading a manual. However, Mr. Guzewicz testified that he gave both men about equal training time.

 Plaintiff made many errors in computing the incentive pay of the workers in the electric furnace. Most of his errors were of the addition-subtraction-multiplication variety, although he made some other errors as well. In the first three pay periods that plaintiff held this position he made over half a dozen mathematical errors resulting in underpayments or overpayments to United States Steel employees. When an employee was overpaid, the overpayment would be deducted from his next pay. Mr. Langett, the union representative, testified the Union had complained that the workers were quite upset because of this occurring so often.

 On June 20, 1973, plaintiff was given a written warning for this unsatisfactory work. Plaintiff said he needed more time to do the job correctly. The warning was not grieved under the collective bargaining agreement applying to plaintiff. Plaintiff was granted two additional two-week pay periods to improve, with the understanding that the warning would be removed if he did.

 In the next two pay periods, June 30 and July 14, Mr. Nestor, plaintiff's supervisor, checked plaintiff's work and found 14 errors before actual incorrect paychecks were issued.

 On July 25, 1973, plaintiff filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") charge, claiming that the company was discriminating against him by its actions surrounding this promotion.

 He filed the same allegations with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC") on October 16, 1973. The EEOC determined that there was "no reasonable cause" to believe plaintiff had been discriminated against due to his race. The PHRC likewise determined that the facts disclosed during its investigation failed to substantiate plaintiff's allegations.

 On August 3, 1973, in a meeting with his union representative present, the June 30 and July 14 errors were discussed. When plaintiff again claimed he needed more experience on the job he was granted another trial period.

 In this trial period, a 6-week period, plaintiff made 5 more basic errors resulting in over 600 incorrect payments to employees.

 As a result of the defendant corporation's dissatisfaction with plaintiff's work as an incentive clerk he was removed from this temporary position in September of 1973 and placed back into the permanent accounts payable clerk position, Job Class 5, which he previously held.

 After he was returned to the Job Class 5 job, which was also after he had filed the discrimination charges, plaintiff's situation on the job became increasingly difficult.

 In October, 1973, he was number nine on a seniority list for employees in his division. Having the proper seniority, he then bid for a promotion to Job Class 6 as an incentive clerk in the basic oxygen furnace ("BOF") division of defendant corporation's Duquesne Works. This job became available on a temporary basis due to an employee's illness. Although this was not the same incentive clerk position which he had previously held, it involved many similar duties. The defendant offered this job to Joseph Cabray, a white employee with less seniority than the plaintiff; thereafter plaintiff filed a grievance. The grievance was arbitrated. The subject of his prior 1973 errors was reviewed by the arbitrator, who found the jobs essentially identical and that plaintiff's six month trial period on the electric furnace job had been adequate. The arbitrator found that defendant did not violate the contract in awarding the temporary Job Class 6 position to Mr. Cabray, rather than plaintiff.

 Plaintiff filed no charge with the EEOC concerning the temporary job given to Mr. Cabray, and the issue of whether that employment decision constituted discrimination is not before us.

 Beginning sometime in 1973, the plaintiff's attendance at work began to decline. He was ...


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