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Howze v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp.

December 28, 1984

GWENDOLYN HOWZE, APPELLANT
v.
JONES & LAUGHLIN STEEL CORP., APPELLEE



On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania

Author: Seitz

Before: SEITZ, BECKER, and ROSENN, Circuit Judges.

Opinion OF THE COURT

SEITZ, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiff, Gwendolyn Howze, appeals from an order of the district court granting summary judgment to defendant in this employment discrimination action brought pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. and the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Howze further appeals from the district court's denial of her motions to extend the period for discovery and to grant leave to amend her complaint. This court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291.

I. BACKGROUND

Howze alleges that she was denied a promotion by her employer, defendant Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation ("J&L"), because she is black. Since February of 1980, Howze has been a full-time employee of J&L. Although initially hired into the stenographic pool, she was later assigned as a receptionist-stenographer in J&L's Public Relations Department. While serving in that capacity, Howze claims that she was told by her supervisor that the position of Staff Assistant to the Corporate Contributions Committee (the "CCC") would be created and that she would be recommended for the position. The CCC is a Pittsburgh organization consisting of corporate representatives who are responsible for making determinations with respect to charitable contributions.

Howze alleges that on April 16, 1981, her supervisor informed her that she would not be considered for the Staff Assistant position because of her race. According to Howze, one of the functions of the Staff Assistant would be to attend the meetings of the CCC. She claims that she was told by her supervisor that since there was already one black corporate representative on the committee it was "highly unlikely" that she would be promoted to fill that position. Howze also alleges that her supervisor told her that J&L did not place blacks in positions of high public exposure.

Howze alleges that it was J&L's practice not to post job openings or to publicly seek applications. For this reason, Howze did not have the opportunity to apply for the Staff Assistant job.

On August 18, 1981, a white secretary was promoted to fill the newly created Staff Assistant position. Howze believes that she was more qualified than the white woman who was promoted because she had been performing many of the duties of the Staff Assistant before the position was created. These responsibilities included the preparation of budgets and reports, and correspondence to the CCC.

Howze filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the "EEOC") on February 4, 1982, the 294th day after the alleged discrimination. Following an investigation, the EEOC determined that there was no reasonable cause to believe that J&L had discriminated against Howze. A right to sue letter was issued by the EEOC on August 11, 1982.

Howze timely filed the present action in the district court on November 2, 1982. Her pro se complaint alleged instances of class-wide race discrimination as well as her individual claims. She was assisted in the preparation of her pro se complaint by a non-resident attorney whom she had contacted by telephone. Howze did not meet personally with the attorney, nor did he ever consent to represent her.

Howze's case was consolidated for pretrial proceedings with a similar action brought by fellow employee Alex Jones, whose appeal we also decide today. See Jones v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., 750 F.2d 1214 (3d Cir. 1984). The district court ordered that all discovery be completed within 60 days of the filing of J&L's answer. Because of the difficulties Howze experienced in attempting to obtain counsel, the period for discovery had expired before an attorney was retained in March of 1982. Howze's counsel moved to amend the complaint and to expand the period for discovery, but these motions were denied. Thus, the record before the district court on the basis of which the district court granted summary judgment consisted solely of Howze's complaint, J&L's answer, Howze's deposition, obtained while she was without counsel, an affidavit by John Purser, J&L's Vice President of Public Affairs, and Howze's affidavit. ...


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