402 F.2d 357 (7th Cir. 1968), 16700, Choate v. Caterpillar Tractor Co.

Docket Nº:16700.
Citation:402 F.2d 357
Party Name:Lynda L. CHOATE, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. CATERPILLAR TRACTOR COMPANY, Defendant-Appellee.
Case Date:October 17, 1968
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Page 357

402 F.2d 357 (7th Cir. 1968)

Lynda L. CHOATE, Plaintiff-Appellant,



No. 16700.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.

October 17, 1968

Page 358

James L. Hafele, Peoria, Ill., for plaintiff-appellant.

Homer W. Keller, Peoria, Ill., for defendant-appellee; Miller, Westervelt & Johnson, Peoria, Ill., of counsel.

Before MAJOR, Senior Circuit Judge, and SWYGERT and FAIRCHILD, Circuit judges.

SWYGERT, Circuit Judge.

In this appeal we are asked to interpret section 706 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5, which relates to the enforcement of the equal employment opportunities provisions of Title VII of the Act. 1

Plaintiff, Lynda L. Choate, appeals from an order of the district court dismissing her claim for relief based on an alleged unlawful employment practice within the meaning of section 703(a)(1) of the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). 2

In her complaint, the plaintiff in substance alleged that on February 22, 1966 she applied to the defendant, Caterpillar Tractor Company, for factory work and was told that 'she would not be given a job for the reason that as long as men were available for beginning factory jobs, men would be hired to the exclusion of women;' that about March 14, 1966 she filed a 'written complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in Washington, D.C.;' and that on October 5, 1966 the Commission wrote her that 'there was reasonable cause to believe that a violation (of the Act) had occurred.' The plaintiff further alleged that, in compliance with the statute, she filed her complaint in the district court within

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thirty days 'after having been notified of her right to do so by the * * * Commission;' that she had been discriminated against and denied employment as a result of her sex in violation of the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1); and that her prospective employer intentionally engaged in an unlawful employment practice within the meaning of the Act. The plaintiff requested that Caterpillar be enjoined from engaging in such unlawful employment practices, that it be ordered to hire her with back pay, and that she be awarded a reasonable attorney's fee.

The defendant moved to dismiss the complaint because it failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Specifically, the motion challenged the sufficiency of the complaint on the grounds, among others, that there were no allegations that the charge filed with the Commission was 'under oath' as required by section 706(a) of the Act or that the plaintiff received from the Commission notice as prescribed in section 706(e) that it had been 'unable to obtain voluntary compliance' by Caterpillar, and that, in any event, the action was barred by reason of the time limitations contained in the statute.

The district court granted the motion to dismiss, holding that 'resort to the remedy of conciliation is a jurisdictional prerequisite to the right to file a civil action' and that 'the filing of a verified charge with the Commission is necessary to invoke the statutory enforcement procedures.' After reaching that determination, the court did not rule upon the other contentions made by the defendant with respect to the sufficiency of the complaint. 3

Subsequent to the court's ruling, the plaintiff moved for leave to file an amended complaint for the purpose of eliminating the defects raised by the motions to dismiss. The tendered amended complaint alleged that about June 27, 1966 the plaintiff was contacted by the Commission at which time she 'swore under oath that the contents of her complaint filed on March 14, 1966 were true.' The district court denied leave to file the amended complaint, stating that the allegations of the proposed amendment 'now * * * make clear that the alleged violation was not 'charged in writing under oath' * * * as specifically required by statute.'

We are of the view that the district court was in error in holding that its jurisdiction to entertain the suit depended upon whether the charge of discrimination filed with the Commission was under oath. Basic to our view is the fact that the 'under oath' requirement relates to the administrative procedures which are conducted by the Commission and which precede any court action. The statute gives the Commission no enforcement powers through the adjudicatory process. It allows the Commission only to investigate charges and attempt to gain compliance by informal methods of conference, conciliation, and persuasion. Enforcement of the rights of aggrieved parties resides exclusively in the federal courts. When the statute is thus considered, it is clear that the requirement for verification of charges lodged with the Commission relates solely to the administrative rather than to the judicial features of the statute. We believe that the provision is directory and technical rather than mandatory and substantive.

The requirement that a complainant must invoke the administrative process within the time limitations set forth in section 706(d) is a jurisdictional precondition to the commencement of a court action. A close reading of the statute indicates that there are only two additional jurisdictional prerequisites for such commencement: first, a notification to the aggrieved party by the Commission that it has been unable to obtain voluntary compliance and, second, the action must be filed within thirty days after the notification.

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Given the fact that the administrative remedy alone may be insufficient to vindicate the rights of aggrieved parties, we believe that it would be unnecessarily harsh and in derogation of the interests of those whom the Act was designed to protect...

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