JUSTICE STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court.
The question to be decided is whether a judgment in a class action determining that an employer did not engage in a general pattern or practice of racial discrimination against the certified class of employees precludes a class member from maintaining a subsequent civil action alleging an individual claim of racial discrimination against the employer.
On March 22, 1977, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission commenced a civil action against respondent, the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
Six months after the EEOC filed its complaint, four individual employees
After certifying the class, the District Court ordered that notice be published in the Charlotte newspapers and mailed to each individual member of the class. The notice described the status of the litigation, and plainly stated that members of the class "will be bound by the judgment or other determination" if they did not exclude themselves by sending a written notice to the Clerk.
At the trial the intervening plaintiffs, as well as the Baxter petitioners, testified. The District Court found that the Bank had engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination from 1974 through 1978 by failing to afford black employees opportunities for advancement and assignment equal to
Thereafter, on March 24, 1981, the Baxter petitioners moved to intervene, alleging that each had been denied a promotion for discriminatory reasons. With respect to Emma Ruffin, the court denied the motion because she was a member of the class for which relief had been ordered and therefore her rights would be protected in the Stage II proceedings to be held on the question of relief. With respect to the other five Baxter petitioners, the court also denied the motion, but for a different reason. It held that because all of them were employed in jobs above the grade 5 category, they were not entitled to any benefit from the court's ruling with respect to discrimination in grades 4 and 5. The District Court stated: "The court has found no proof of any classwide discrimination above grade 5 and, therefore, they are not entitled to participate in any Stage II proceedings in this case." Id., at 287a. The court added that it could "see no reason why, if any of the would be intervenors are actively interested in pursuing their claims, they cannot file a Section 1981 suit next week . . . ." Id., at 288a.
A few days later the Baxter petitioners filed a separate action against the Bank alleging that each of them had been denied a promotion because of their race in violation of 42 U. S. C. § 1981. The Bank moved to dismiss the complaint on the ground that each of them was a member of the class
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed the District Court's judgment on the merits in the Cooper litigation, concluding that (1) there was insufficient evidence to establish a pattern or practice of racial discrimination in grades 4 and 5, and (2) two of the intervening plaintiffs had not been discriminated against on account of race. EEOC v. Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, 698 F.2d 633 (1983). The court further held that under the doctrine of res judicata, the judgment in the Cooper class action precluded the Baxter petitioners from maintaining their individual race discrimination claims against the Bank. The court thus reversed the order denying the Bank's motion to dismiss in the Baxter action, and remanded for dismissal of the Baxter complaint. We granted certiorari to review that judgment, 464 U.S. 932 (1983),
Claims of two types were adjudicated in the Cooper litigation. First, the individual claims of each of the four intervening plaintiffs have been finally decided in the Bank's favor.
There is of course no dispute that under elementary principles of prior adjudication a judgment in a properly entertained class action is binding on class members in any subsequent litigation. See, e. g., Supreme Tribe of Ben-Hur v. Cauble, 255 U.S. 356 (1921); Restatement of Judgments § 86 (1942); Restatement (Second) of Judgments § 41(1)(e) (1982); see also Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 23(c)(3); see generally Moore & Cohn, Federal Class Actions — Jurisdiction and Effect of Judgment, 32 Ill. L. Rev. 555 (1938). Basic principles of res judicata (merger and bar or claim preclusion) and collateral estoppel (issue preclusion) apply. A judgment in favor of the plaintiff class extinguishes their claim, which merges into the judgment granting relief. A judgment in favor of the defendant extinguishes the claim, barring a subsequent action on that claim. A judgment in favor of either side is conclusive in a subsequent action between them on any issue actually litigated and determined, if its determination was essential to that judgment.
A plaintiff bringing a civil action for a violation of § 703(a) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 78 Stat. 255, as amended, 42 U. S. C. § 2000e-2(a), has the initial burden of establishing a prima facie case that his employer discriminated against him on account of his race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. A plaintiff meets this initial burden by offering evidence adequate to create an inference that he was denied an employment opportunity on the basis of a discriminatory criterion enumerated in Title VII.
In Franks v. Bowman Transportation Co, 424 U.S. 747 (1976), the plaintiff, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, alleged that the employer had engaged in a pervasive pattern of racial discrimination in various company policies, including the hiring, transfer, and discharge of employees. In that class action we held that demonstrating the existence of a discriminatory pattern or practice established a presumption that the individual class members had been discriminated against on account of race. Id., at 772. Proving
The crucial difference between an individual's claim of discrimination and a class action alleging a general pattern or practice of discrimination is manifest. The inquiry regarding an individual's claim is the reason for a particular employment decision, while "at the liability stage of a pattern-or-practice trial the focus often will not be on individual hiring decisions, but on a pattern of discriminatory decisionmaking." Id., at 360, n. 46. See generally Furnco Construction Corp. v. Waters, 438 U.S. 567, 575, n. 7 (1978).
This distinction was critical to our holding in General Telephone Co. of Southwest v. Falcon, 457 U.S. 147 (1982), that an individual employee's claim that he was denied a promotion on racial grounds did not necessarily make him an adequate representative of a class composed of persons who had allegedly been refused employment for discriminatory reasons. We explained:
After analyzing the particulars of the plaintiff's claim in that case, we pointed out that if "one allegation of specific discriminatory treatment were sufficient to support an across-the-board attack, every Title VII case would be a potential companywide class action." Id., at 159. We further observed:
Falcon thus holds that the existence of a valid individual claim does not necessarily warrant the conclusion that the individual plaintiff may successfully maintain a class action. It
The District Court found that two of the intervening plaintiffs, Cooper and Russell, had both established that they were the victims of racial discrimination but, as the Court of Appeals noted, they were employed in grades higher than grade 5 and therefore their testimony provided no support for the conclusion that there was a practice of discrimination in grades 4 and 5.
The analysis of the merits of the Cooper litigation by the Court of Appeals is entirely consistent with this conclusion. In essence, the Court of Appeals held that the statistical
The Court of Appeals was correct in generally concluding that the Baxter petitioners, as members of the class represented by the intervening plaintiffs in the Cooper litigation, are bound by the adverse judgment in that case. The court erred, however, in the preclusive effect it attached to that prior adjudication. That judgment (1) bars the class members from bringing another class action against the Bank alleging a pattern or practice of discrimination for the relevant time period and (2) precludes the class members in any other litigation with the Bank from relitigating the question whether the Bank engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination against black employees during the relevant time period. The judgment is not, however, dispositive of the individual claims the Baxter petitioners have alleged in their separate action. Assuming they establish a prima facie case of discrimination under McDonnell Douglas, the Bank will be required to articulate a legitimate reason for each of the challenged decisions, and if it meets that burden, the ultimate questions regarding motivation in their individual cases will be resolved by the District Court. Moreover, the prior adjudication may well prove beneficial to the Bank in the Baxter action: the determination in the Cooper action that the Bank had not engaged in a general pattern or practice of discrimination would be relevant on the issue of pretext. See McDonnell Douglas, 411 U. S., at 804-805.
The Bank argues that permitting the Baxter petitioners to bring separate actions would frustrate the purposes of Rule 23. We think the converse is true. The class-action device was intended to establish a procedure for the adjudication of common questions of law or fact. If the Bank's theory were adopted, it would be tantamount to requiring that every member of the class be permitted to intervene to litigate the merits of his individual claim.
This argument fails to differentiate between what the District Court might have done and what it actually did. The District Court did actually adjudicate the individual claims of Cooper and the other intervening plaintiffs, as well as the class claims, but it pointedly refused to decide the individual claims of the Baxter petitioners. Whether the issues framed by the named parties before the court should be expanded to encompass the individual claims of additional class members is a matter of judicial administration that should be decided in the first instance by the District Court. Nothing in Rule 23 requires as a matter of law that the District Court make a finding with respect to each and every matter on which there is testimony in the class action. Indeed, Rule 23 is carefully drafted to provide a mechanism for the expeditious decision of common questions. Its purposes might well be defeated by an attempt to decide a host of individual claims before any common question relating to liability has been resolved adversely to the defendant. We do not find the District Court's denial of the Baxter petitioners' motion for leave to intervene in the Cooper litigation, or its decision not to make findings regarding the Baxter petitioners' testimony in the Cooper litigation, to be inconsistent with Rule 23.
It is so ordered.
JUSTICE MARSHALL concurs in the judgment.
JUSTICE POWELL took no part in the decision of this case.
"3. The class of persons who are entitled to participate in this action as members of the class represented by the plaintiff-intervenors, for whom relief may be sought in this action by the plaintiff-intervenors and who will be bound by the determination in this action is defined to include: all black persons who were employed by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond at its Charlotte Branch Office at any time since January 3, 1974.
"4. If you fit in the definition of the class in paragraph 3 you are a class member. As a class member, you are entitled to pursue in this action any claim of racial discrimination in employment that you may have against the defendant. You need to do nothing further at this time to remain a member of the class. However, if you so desire, you may exclude yourself from the class by notifying the Clerk, United States District Court, as provided in paragraph 6 below.
"5. If you decide to remain in this action, you should be advised that: the court will include you in the class in this action unless you request to be excluded from the class in writing; the judgment in this case, whether favorable or unfavorable to the plaintiff and the plaintiff-intervenors, will include all members of the class; all class members will be bound by the judgment or other determination of this action; and if you do not request exclusion, you may appear at the hearings and trial of this action through the attorney of your choice.
"6. If you desire to exclude yourself from this action, you will not be bound by any judgment or other determination in this action and you will not be able to depend on this action to toll any statutes of limitations on any individual claims you may have against the defendant. You may exclude yourself from this action by notifying the Clerk in writing that you do not desire to participate in this action. The Clerk's address is: Clerk, United States District Court, Post Office Box 1266, Charlotte, North Carolina 28232." App. 35a-37a.
"In denying the motion the District Court stated that all intervenors `in grades higher than grade 5' were not members of the class in whose favor the District Court had found `classwide discrimination.' By this test, Cooper, Moore, Russell, Baxter, Gilliam, Knott and McCorkle were not members of the class in which discrimination was found and their testimony could not have been included within the District Court's term `oral testimony of class members,' complaining of promotion out of either pay grade 4 or pay grade 5; only the testimony of Ruffin and Harrison met that qualifying standard." EEOC v. Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, 698 F.2d 633, 644 (1983).
"The claim here is a pattern or practice of intentional discrimination against an entire group by treating it less favorably because of race. That is the typical disparate treatment case. This case should accordingly be properly treated as such. However, the result reached by us would not be substantially different whether the class action be considered as a disparate impact or a disparate treatment case." Id., at 639.
"This case accordingly presents quite a contrast with Teamsters where the `oral testimony of class members' demonstrated 40 cases of specific instances of discrimination in support of the statistical evidence offered by plaintiffs or with that in our own case of Chisholm v. United States Postal Service, 665 F.2d 482, 495 (4th Cir. 1981), where there were 20 `class members' testifying of individual discrimination. Here all we have is the testimony of but two class members testifying of individual discrimination in promotion out of either pay grade 4 or pay grade 5 on which a finding of discriminatory practices can be rested. This is even less of a presentation of oral testimony in support of a pattern of discrimination than that found wanting in Ste. Marie v. Eastern R. Ass'n., 650 F.2d 395, 405-06 (2d Cir. 1981), where the Court declared that the small number of incidents of discrimination in promotion over a period of years in that case `would be insufficient to support the inference of a routine or regular practice of discrimination . . . ,' or, in Goff v. Continental Oil Co., 678 F.2d 593, 597 (5th Cir. 1982), where the Court held that `even if all three witnesses' accounts of racial discrimination were true, this evidence would not have been enough to prove a pattern or practice of company-wide discrimination by Conoco.' It follows that these two incidents of failure to promote Ruffin or Harrison, even if regarded as discriminatory, (which we assume only arguendo), would not support the District Court's finding of a pattern of class discrimination in promotions out of grades 4 and 5." Id., at 643-644 (footnotes omitted).