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U.S. Supreme Court

Corning Glass Works v. Brennan, 417 U.S. 188 (1974)

Corning Glass Works v. Brennan

No. 73-29

Argued March 25, 1974

Decided June 3, 1974*

417 U.S. 188


Male employees at the Corning Glass Works (Corning) previously performed night shift inspection and were paid more than females, who performed the day shift inspection. A plant-wide shift differential that subsequently came with unionization was superimposed on the existing base-wage difference between male night inspectors and female day inspectors. Thereafter, beginning June 1, 1966, Corning began to open up night shift jobs for women, who, on an equal seniority basis with men, were able to bid for the higher paid night inspection jobs as vacancies occurred. On January 20, 1969, a new "job evaluation" system for setting wage rates took effect, under which all subsequently hired inspectors were to receive the same base wage (which was higher than the previous night shift rate) regardless of sex or shift. Employees hired before that date, however, when working night shift, were to continue to receive a higher ("red circle") rate, thus perpetuating the previous differential in base pay between day and night inspectors. The Secretary of Labor brought these actions for backpay and injunctive relief against Corning, claiming that violations of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 had occurred at its Corning, N.Y. (No. 73-29), and Wellsboro, Pa. (No. 73-695), plants. In No. 73-29, the District Court granted relief, and the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed, concluding that Corning's practice violated the Act, while the District Court in No. 73-695 held that the Act had not been violated, and the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed. In order to establish a violation of the Act, it must be shown that an employer pays different wages to employees of opposite sexes

"for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions, "

Page 417 U. S. 189

except where the difference in payment is made pursuant to a seniority or merit system or one measuring earnings by quantity or quality of production, or where the differential is "based on any other factor other than sex."


1. Corning violated the Act during the period from its effective date to June, 1966. Pp. 417 U. S. 195-205.

(a) The statutory term "working conditions," as is clear from the Act's legislative history, encompasses only physical surroundings and hazards, and not the time of day worked. Pp. 417 U. S. 197-204.

(b) The record amply supports the conclusion of the District Court in No. 73-29 that Corning had not sustained its burden of proof that the higher base wage for pre-June 1966 all-male night inspection work was, in fact, intended to serve as added compensation for night work, and thus was based on a "factor other than sex." Substantial evidence showed that the differential arose simply because men would not work at the low rates paid women inspectors, and reflected a job market in which Corning could pay women less than men for the same work. Pp. 417 U. S. 204-205.

2. Corning did not cure its violation in June, 1966, by permitting women to work as night shift inspectors, since the violation could not have been cured except by equalizing the base wages of female day inspectors with the higher rates paid the night inspectors. Pp. 417 U. S. 205-208.

3. The violation was not cured in 1969, when Corning equalized day and night inspector wage rates, since the "red circle" rate perpetuated the discrimination. Pp. 417 U. S. 208-210.

No. 73-29, 474 F.2d 226, affirmed; No. 73-695, 480 F.2d 1254, reversed and remanded.

MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which DOUGLAS, BRENNAN, WHITE, and POWELL, JJ., joined. BURGER, C.J.,and BLACKMUN and REHNQUIST, JJ., filed a dissenting statement, post, p. 417 U. S. 210. STEWART, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the cases. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 417 U. S. 190

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