ROSS, Circuit Judge.
Samuel Wright, a black, filed this employment discrimination suit against Stone Container Corporation [hereinafter referred to as Stone] under the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 2000e. He alleged racial discrimination in employment by reason of Stone's refusal to hire and promote minority persons into maintenance and office positions. He specifically alleged, inter alia, that he had been denied a promotion to Stone's maintenance department.
After a pretrial class hearing, the district court denied certification of the suit as a class action. A trial was held on the merits after which the district court denied Wright individual relief, and refused to award attorneys' fees to the defendant.
A detailed description of the facts is contained in the district court's opinion. We outline only the essential facts here.
Stone manufactures corrugated boxes at its St. Louis, Missouri plant. Before 1962, the business was known as Leonson Box Board Company. Stone purchased the business in 1962.
Plaintiff Wright was hired by Leonson in 1960. He has been employed by Stone since the 1962 takeover in the company's production unit. Since 1970, plaintiff has been a corrugator operator and has been paid an hourly wage in excess of that required by union contract.
Stone's St. Louis plant is divided into three organized bargaining units and an unorganized office force. The production employees are represented by the Printing Specialties and Paper Products Union, Local 409, AFL-CIO. The maintenance and engineering employees are represented by the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 2, AFL-CIO.
There are approximately 105 wage earning employees in the plant. Of these, approximately 65 to 70 are blacks. However all but two of the black employees work in the production unit. One black man is a truck driver and a black woman is employed in a clerical position. Other blacks have been employed in the past as truck drivers and another black was hired for office work but was discharged for failure to attend work. No blacks have ever been employed in the maintenance department.
By union agreement, seniority in the plant is on a departmental basis.
In district court, Wright attacked the segregated nature of Stone's office and maintenance units and sought class wide relief. He also sought individual relief claiming that he had twice orally applied for a maintenance job in 1962 or 1963 and again in 1965. He claimed he was refused on both occasions. The district court refused to certify the class and denied the individual claim.
I. WRIGHT'S CLASS ACTION
The district court refused to certify the class because Wright made no showing, "of the specific claims of a sufficient number of those purported to be class members, as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a), (1)(2), and (3)." Wright v. Stone Container Corp., 386 F.Supp. 890, 892 (E.D.Mo.1974).
The trial court is, of necessity, clothed with a good deal of discretion in determining the appropriateness of a class action. Arkansas Education Association v. Board of Education, 446 F.2d 763, 765 (8th Cir. 1971). Each determination must be based on the facts and circumstances of each individual case, and must depend upon a careful balance between the convenience of maintaining a class action and the need to guarantee adequate representation to the class members. Therefore a class decision will be overturned only upon a showing that the trial court abused its discretion.
The class representative must initially meet four prerequisites in order to obtain certification of a class action. He must show that:
Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a). The class representative must also meet one of the prerequisites of Rule 23(b) not pertinent to our discussion.
We are committed to the proposition that Rule 23 should be liberally construed
Under the peculiar circumstances of this case however, we cannot say that the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to certify the class under Rule 23(a). Except for two vague references at the class hearing, Wright could not identify any person who had been subjected to the same or similar discriminatory treatment as he allegedly suffered. He could only speculate that approximately two hundred past and present employees and job applicants were involved. The typicality requirement of Rule 23(a)(3) obligates the class representative to at least demonstrate that there are other members of the class who have similar grievances. Green v. Missouri Pac. R.R., 62 F.R.D. 434, 436 (E.D.Mo.1973), rev'd on other grounds, 523 F.2d 1290 (8th Cir. 1975); accord, Williams v. Matthews Co., 499 F.2d 819, 829 (8th Cir.), cert. denied, 419 U.S. 1027, 95 S.Ct. 507, 42 L.Ed.2d 302 (1974). Wright failed in this regard.
We also doubt that plaintiff was an adequate class representative in the court below. He failed to join the unions as parties defendant despite the existence of agreements between labor and management which regulated seniority and made difficult the transfer from one plant unit to another. Wright sought to represent persons who could have been adversely affected by a change in labor's seniority and transfer rules but openly opposed joining the unions who were partly responsible for such policies.
Furthermore, we would have doubts regarding the adequacy of plaintiff's class representation on any subsequent remand. The district court found as a matter of fact that Wright had not applied and was not qualified for the maintenance job. In view of our holding, discussed infra, that this determination is not clearly erroneous, we would be forced to foist upon the class a representative who would not himself be a sentative who would not himself be a member of the class. We feel this could be potentially unfair to the other members of the class, and could make a sham of any subsequent class action against Stone. We refuse to rely on this factor alone however.
II. WRIGHT'S INDIVIDUAL ACTION
The district court found that Wright failed to prove: 1) that he applied for the position of maintenance man; 2) that he was qualified for the position of maintenance man; 3) that Stone was seeking job applicants at the time of Wright's alleged applications; 4) that Wright was rejected; 5) that the position remained open after Wright's alleged rejection; and 6) that Stone continued to seek applicants possessing qualifications similar to those of the plaintiff after his alleged rejection.
After careful review of the record, we hold that these findings are not clearly erroneous. The only evidence offered to support Wright's claim that he had applied and was qualified for the job was his own testimony.
It is apparent from the record that he suffered from a severe credibility problem. He admitted that he filed no written application for the position of maintenance mechanic. He had great difficulty identifying the years in which he tendered his alleged oral applications. Wright also admitted that he never filed a grievance with the union regarding his alleged rejection.
Furthermore, the clear weight of the evidence shows that Wright was never qualified to undertake the position of maintenance mechanic. Although the hiring criteria used by Stone were largely subjective, some past mechanical experience was required of applicants for maintenance mechanic positions. Wright's own version of his past mechanical experience was sketchy at best. He presented no evidence that his qualifications were equal to or better than those of the individuals who were hired as maintenance mechanics in the years in question. His work at Stone as a corrugator operator did not require a high degree of mechanical ability.
McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973), establishes the prima facie elements of a Title VII racial discrimination case. The complainant must establish:
Id. at 802, 93 S.Ct. at 1824 (footnote omitted). Although the requirements of a prima facie case will vary from case to case, Wright's failure to apply and lack of qualifications for the job are clearly fatal to his complaint. The purpose of Title VII is to eliminate discrimination, not to saddle management with unqualified employees.
III. ATTORNEYS' FEES
Defendant counterclaimed for attorneys' fees. The district court held that an award of attorneys' fees was inappropriate in this case. We agree.
An award of attorneys' fees in a Title VII action is a matter committed to the discretion of the trial court. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(k); Rogers v. International Paper Co., 510 F.2d 1340, 1357 (8th Cir. 1975), petition for cert. filed, 43 U.S.L.W. 3666 (U.S. May 17, 1975) (No.