Teamsters Local Union No. 117 v. Wash. Dep’t of Corr.

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Labor Law
  • Date Filed: 06-12-2015
  • Case #: 13-35331
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge McKeown for the Court; Circuit Judges Hawkins and Tallman
  • Full Text Opinion

Facially discriminatory hiring practices may be legal if the characteristic being discriminated against is bona fide occupational qualification and is reasonably necessary to the normal operation of that particular business or enterprise

The Washington Department of Corrections (“Department” ) decided to make 110 prison guard positions at two female prisons female-only. Teamsters Local No. 117 (“Teamster”), the union representing state correctional workers, filed suit against the Department for sex discrimination. Teamsters failed to provide evidence of cognizable injury, so the district court granted the state’s motion for summary judgment. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit found that supplemental affidavits by five union members met the minimum standard to establish standing for Teamsters. Additionally, the panel found that sex discrimination in correctional facilities may be allowed if sex is a relevant factor related to workers’ ability to do their job, which may include maintaining facility security and prisoners’ privacy rights. However, the department must show that they had an objective basis for gender discrimination. The panel ruled that the extensive process of obtaining expert information, consulting other states, and reviewing case law was sufficient to show an objective basis, and that the department was to be given deference when determining the necessity of gender preference. The panel ruled that without bona fide occupation qualifications, there was no way to ensure a balance of security and privacy rights. Due to the department having showed that they reasonably considered alternatives to sex based classifications, because male guards, absent an emergency cannot search female inmates or collect urine samples, there were no reasonable alternatives besides a female only position. Further, moving female guards form other posts to perform these tasks would put security at risk. Therefore, the panel found that sex was a verifiable and objective job qualification. AFFIRMED.

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