Anderson v. City of Bessemer City

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Determined whether a court could reverse a ruling of discrimination on the grounds that the lower court findings were clearly erroneous.

Full Case Title: 

Anderson v. City of Bessemer City, 470 U.S. 564 (1985)
  • Workplace Equality and Economic Empowerment


  • Authored Amicus Brief


Summary of the Case

In 1975, the city of Bessemer City, North Carolina decided to hire a full-time recreation director to run its community recreation program. The program was to provide recreational activities for residents of both sexes and all ages. Prior to this time, the recreation program had been run almost entirely by the Optimist Club, a community service organization whose membership was limited to males. The new recreation director was to be selected by a hiring committee, appointed by the Mayor for that purpose. The hiring process contained pervasive and undisguised sex discrimination. This was proved largely by direct evidence of discriminatory motive: open hostility by male committee members towards the prospect of a woman in the job in question, recruitment only of men, offensive sex-based questions posed solely to the woman applicant, and a history of overt sex discrimination.

The United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina found that Bessemer City violated Title VII, discriminating on the basis of sex. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, holding that some of the District Court's findings were "clearly erroneous."

Our Role in the Case

Legal Momentum authored a brief along with other women's rights and civil right's organizations which argued that, contrary to the District Court's reversal, this case contains direct evidence of 
intentional discrimination. Furthermore, the fact that the men on the hiring committee were married to working women does not rebut direct evidence of the men's discriminatory motive.



The Supreme Court reversed the Circuit Court decision, writing that the Circuit Court misapplied the "clearly erroneous" standard.