404 U.S. 522 (1972), 70-5033, Love v. Pullman Co.

Docket Nº:No. 70-5033
Citation:404 U.S. 522, 92 S.Ct. 616, 30 L.Ed.2d 679
Party Name:Love v. Pullman Co.
Case Date:January 17, 1972
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 522

404 U.S. 522 (1972)

92 S.Ct. 616, 30 L.Ed.2d 679



Pullman Co.

No. 70-5033

United States Supreme Court

Jan. 17, 1972

Argued November 16, 1971




Procedure whereby the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), after having received a written charge from a complainant of discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, orally referred it to the appropriate state agency, waited until that agency had terminated its jurisdiction, and then formally filed the charge on behalf of the complainant without having obtained an additional written charge within 30 days of the termination of the state proceedings held to satisfy the requirements of §§ 706(b) and (d) of the Act, which have the purpose of affording state agencies prior opportunity to consider discrimination complaints and ensuring their prompt filing and disposition by the EEOC on exhaustion of the state remedy. Pp. 523-527.

430 F.2d 49, reversed.

STEWART, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all members joined except POWELL and REHNQUIST, JJ., who took no part in the consideration or decision of the cases.

Page 523

STEWART, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

A person claiming to be aggrieved by a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 78 Stat. 253,1 may not maintain a suit for redress in federal district court until he has first unsuccessfully pursued certain avenues of potential administrative relief. In this litigation, the petitioner employee filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, alleging that his employer, the respondent Pullman Company, had engaged in employment practices violative of Title VII. The court dismissed the complaint, holding that the statutory prerequisites to the maintenance of the suit had not been met. The Court of Appeals affirmed, 430 F.2d 49, and we granted certiorari to consider the question of federal law presented. 401 U.S. 907.

The petitioner was employed by the Pullman Company as a "porter-in-charge." In 1963 and again in 1965, he complained to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, alleging that the porters-in-charge, most of whom, like the petitioner, were Negroes, performed the same functions as conductors, most of whom were white, yet at lower pay. The proceedings of the Colorado Commission terminated in 1965 without reaching a resolution of the controversy satisfactory to the petitioner. On May 23, 1966, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received from the petitioner a "letter of inquiry" which complained of this same alleged discrimination.

Page 524

In accord with its usual practice,2 the Commission treated this letter as a complaint, but did not formally file it. Instead, to insure compliance with Title VII's procedural requirements, EEOC orally advised the Colorado Commission that it had received a complaint from the petitioner. By letter of June 1, 1966, the Colorado Commission informed EEOC that it waived the opportunity to take further action on the petitioner's grievance, and the EEOC then proceeded with its own investigation. The investigation resulted in a finding of probable [92 S.Ct. 618] cause to believe that the charge of discrimination was true, but the EEOC was unsuccessful in its attempts to obtain Pullman's voluntary compliance. T his lawsuit followed.

The basis for the holding of the Court of Appeals was its finding that the charge of discrimination had not been "filed" with EEOC by the petitioner in conformity with the requirements of the Act.3 Two such requirements are critical here. Section 706(b) of the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(b), provides that, where there exists a state or local agency authorized to grant or seek relief against

Page 525

employment discrimination,

no charge may be filed [with the EEOC] by the person aggrieved before the expiration of sixty days after proceedings have been commenced under the State or local law, unless such proceedings have been earlier terminated. . . .

Section 706(d), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(d), requires that the complaint to the EEOC

shall be filed by the person aggrieved within two hundred and ten days after the...

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