Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc Denied February 27, 1981.
VANCE, Circuit Judge:
Plaintiff Samuel T. Gantt brought this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action as an intervenor in the school desegregation litigation in Conecuh County, Alabama. He alleges that defendants Conecuh County Board of Education, its members, and the Superintendent of Schools violated his constitutional rights by repeatedly failing to promote him to a principalship because of his race. The trial court found that defendants successfully rebutted the prima facie case of intentional racial discrimination established by Gantt. Because we find that its holding is clearly erroneous, we reverse.
Gantt is a black male who is currently employed by the Conecuh County school system as a teacher. He holds a master's degree in administration and has a Rank I certificate in administration and supervision from the Alabama Department of Education qualifying him to serve as an elementary, junior high, or senior high school principal. He continues to take upper level administration courses. Gantt served as a principal in various schools in the Conecuh County system from 1946 to 1965. At that time he left to serve as a principal in the Escambia County school system. In 1967 Gantt returned to the Conecuh County system as a classroom teacher and has remained in that position. He testified that his return was motivated in part by a promise from the superintendent at that time that he would be offered an administrative position.
No such position was ever offered, although Gantt requested formally in 1971, 1972 and 1975 that he be considered for a principalship. Sixteen principalship vacancies have occurred in the Conecuh County system since 1967, several of them since the time of Gantt's first letter in 1971. Gantt argues that in at least three of these cases he possessed qualifications objectively superior to those of the white person chosen for the job. In 1971-72 and 1973-74 principalships at Lyeffion High School were filled by whites holding only a Rank II certificate, qualifying them as teachers but not as principals. In 1977-78, after the complaint in this case was filed, a white was named to take over the principalship responsibilities of the Repton High School although he lacked a Rank I certificate at that time and in addition did not possess the "minimum of five years' experience as a principal" that was part of the published job requirements.
In concluding that the defendants had denied Gantt promotion for nonracial reasons the district court observed that the Repton High School principalship had first been offered to a black who turned it down. It noted that a school supervisor had turned in a number of negative evaluations of Gantt's teaching beginning in December, 1974. The court also considered the school superintendent's stated reservations about Gantt.
We note at the outset that the trial court correctly ruled that this case does not arise under Singleton v. Jackson Municipal Separate School District, 419 F.2d 1211 (5th Cir.1970), since Gantt's demotion from principal to classroom teacher did not result from the integration of Conecuh's dual school system. For Gantt to prevail, therefore, it is necessary to find that but for the defendants' racially motivated discrimination, Gantt would have been offered a principalship.
The trial court analyzed this case under the assumption that the elements of a prima facie case of racial discrimination in employment under section 1983 are the same as those set forth for Title VII disparate treatment cases in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green.
Furnco Construction Corp. v. Waters, 438 U.S. 567, 579-80, 98 S.Ct. 2943, 2951, 57 L.Ed. 957 (1978).
In International Brotherhood of Teamsters v. United States, 431 U.S. 324, 97 S.Ct. 1843, 52 L.Ed.2d 396 (1977), the Supreme Court noted that in disparate treatment cases, "Proof of discriminatory motive is critical, although it can in some situations be inferred from the mere fact of differences in treatment. See, e. g., Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Dev. Corp., 429 U.S. 252, 265-266 [97 S.Ct. 555, 563-564, 50 L.Ed.2d 450]." 431 U.S. at 335 n. 15, 97 S.Ct. at 1854 n. 15. As the third circuit observed in Scott v. University of Delaware, 601 F.2d 76, 80-81 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 444 U.S. 931, 100 S.Ct. 275, 62 L.Ed.2d 189 (1979) the Court's reference in Teamsters to Arlington Heights, which addressed proof of discriminatory intent in cases brought under the Constitution, indicates the similarity of the motive requirement in disparate treatment cases and section 1983 suits. See also Williams v. Anderson, 562 F.2d 1081, 1087-88 n. 8 (8th Cir.1977) (discussing the relation of section 1983 and Title VII suggested by Teamsters and taking special note of the Court's citation to Arlington Heights).
The McDonnell Douglas formulation does not provide the only means by which a plaintiff may establish a prima facie case in employment discrimination cases. See Teamsters, 431 U.S. at 358, 97 S.Ct. at 1866; McCorstin v. United States Steel Corp., 621 F.2d 749, 753 (5th Cir.1980); Ramirez v. Sloss, 615 F.2d at 168. Nor will the McDonnell Douglas factors be applicable in all section 1983 suits. The presumptions concerning racial discrimination underlying the McDonnell Douglas test may not be relevant when other constitutional violations are involved. For example, when employment discrimination in violation of first amendment rights has been charged, this court has employed a somewhat different standard. See Tanner v. McCall, 625 F.2d 1183, 1192-93 (5th Cir.1980). In section 1983 suits alleging racially motivated employment discrimination, however, the factors set forth in McDonnell Douglas represent one means by which a plaintiff may establish a prima facie case. See Huntley v. Community School Board of Brooklyn, 543 F.2d 979, 983 n. 6 (2d Cir.1976), cert. denied, 430 U.S. 929, 97 S.Ct. 1547, 51 L.Ed.2d 773 (1977) (noting in the context of an equal protection claim that "[a]lthough McDonnell dealt with questions of the order and nature of proof in actions under Title
Once the plaintiff has established a prima facie case, the employer may rebut it by articulating some legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for his actions. McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802, 93 S.Ct. at 1824. In this circuit we have held that the employer bears the burden of proving the legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for his actions by a preponderance of the evidence in both Title VII actions, see Turner v. Texas Instruments, Inc., 555 F.2d 1251, 1255 (5th Cir.1977) and section 1983 suits, see Ramirez v. Sloss, 615 F.2d at 169. As part of his burden, "the defendant must also prove that those hired or promoted were better qualified than the plaintiff." Falcon v. General Telephone Co. of the Southwest, 626 F.2d 369, 378 (5th Cir.1980) (citing East v. Romine, Inc., 518 F.2d 332 (5th Cir.1975)). In light of Conecuh's recent conversion from a dual school system, however, the trial court correctly found that in this case the burden was upon defendants to prove nondiscriminatory reasons by clear and convincing evidence. At the time that Gantt filed this suit, Conecuh County was operating under a federal injunction ending a regime of de jure segregation. "Proof of an immediate past history of racial discrimination alone can be sufficient to shift to the local board of education the burden of justifying its employment decisions by clear and convincing evidence. [citations omitted]" Lee v. Washington County Board of Education, 625 F.2d 1235, 1237 (5th Cir.1980). Accord, Hardy v. Porter, 613 F.2d 112, 113 (5th Cir.1980).
The defendants' ability to prove legitimate reasons for their decision not to promote Gantt was undermined by their failure to adopt written, objective nonracial criteria for selecting principals. The trial court stated that it was unable to conclude whether Gantt was better qualified than white candidates selected for principalships "for the Board has not adopted any such non-racial objective criteria and, until this is done, the Court will never be in a position to adequately consider the propriety of any principal selection made by the Board." The defendants' contention that they acted for legitimate reasons could therefore not rest on the assertion that any of the applicants chosen were more qualified than Gantt and it was impossible for them to carry the burden of proving that "those hired or promoted were better qualified than the plaintiff." Falcon v. General Telephone Company of the Southwest, 626 F.2d at 378. In each of the three principal selections of which Gantt complains, the only objective evidence available indicates that he was clearly superior to the candidate chosen. In each case Gantt possessed certification as a principal while the candidate chosen did not.
Despite the objective evidence of Gantt's superior qualifications, defendants contend that they refused to promote him because they considered him unfit for a principalship. Aside from inconclusive and largely irrelevant testimony concerning Gantt's personal finances and a rumor of a single incident involving delayed payment of a school milk bill, defendants base their argument on subjective evaluations of Gantt's teaching ability, relying principally on the evaluations of a single supervisor.
The trial court's ruling was influenced in great part by the fact that the Repton principalship had been offered at one point to another black applicant. While such evidence is relevant, it is not determinative in this case. In the first place, it is relevant only to the Repton principalship selection. Second, the fact that defendants offered the principalship to a black after this litigation was underway does not itself establish a lack of discriminatory intent. If the defendants fail to demonstrate a legitimate reason for hiring a white for the principalship, they have failed to rebut the plaintiff's prima facie case.
Even if the defendants' allegations concerning Gantt's unfitness were thought to rebut his prima facie case, however, plaintiffs still had the opportunity to demonstrate that the defendants' reasons were pretextual. McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 804, 93 S.Ct. at 1825. In addition to evidence of his superior qualifications, Gantt introduced statistical evidence of the failure to hire blacks for principalships since the conversion of Conecuh County from a dual system. In the face of proof that the number of black principals in the system has declined by 70% while the number of white principals has remained the same, and that blacks have been appointed to only 19% of the principalship vacancies, the defendants' subjective assertions concerning Gantt's administrative ability must be considered pretextual.
In reviewing the record before us in light of the applicable law, we conclude that the district court's finding that Gantt was not appointed to each of the three principalships discussed above for nonracial reasons is clearly erroneous. Accordingly, Gantt is entitled to be instated as a principal and to back pay based on the differential between his salary as a teacher and the salary he would have received as a principal. We reverse the district court's contrary judgment and remand for further proceedings consistent with this holding.
REVERSED and REMANDED.