429 U.S. 229 (1976), 75-1264, International Union of Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers,

Docket Nº:No. 75-1264
Citation:429 U.S. 229, 97 S.Ct. 441, 50 L.Ed.2d 427
Party Name:International Union of Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers,
Case Date:December 20, 1976
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 229

429 U.S. 229 (1976)

97 S.Ct. 441, 50 L.Ed.2d 427

International Union of Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers,

No. 75-1264

United States Supreme Court

Dec. 20, 1976

AFL-CIO, Local 790 v. Robbins & Myers, Inc.

Argued November 9, 1976

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Two days after her discharge by respondent company, petitioner Guy, a Negro, caused a grievance alleging "unfair action" to be filed on her behalf pursuant to procedures in a collective bargaining agreement between her union and respondent. On February 10, 1972, 84 days after the company under those procedures had denied the grievance, but 108 days after the discharge, petitioner Guy filed a charge of racial discrimination relating to her discharge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which, in November, 1973, concluded that race had not figured in the discharge. Petitioner Guy then brought this suit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in the District Court, which thereafter dismissed the suit on the ground that Guy had not filed her charge with the EEOC within 90 days "after the alleged unlawful practice occurred," as required by $ 706(d) (a period later extended to 180 days when, effective March 24, 1972, the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972 amended the limitations provision), and that Guy's resort to the contractual grievance procedure did not extend the time in which to file the Title VII charge. Section 14 of the 1972 amendments provides that the amendments

shall be applicable with respect to charges pending with the Commission on the date of the enactment of this Act and all charges filed thereafter.

The Court of Appeals, which affirmed, also concluded that the extension of 180 days could not "revive" a claim that was "barred and extinguished" before the extension's effective date.

Held:

[97 S.Ct. 444] 1. Petitioners' contention, raised explicitly for the first time in this Court, that the date of the conclusion of the grievance procedures, not the date of the discharge, was the "final" date of "the alleged unlawful practice," is without merit as being contrary to the understanding of the parties themselves in the courts below. Pp. 234-235.

Page 230

2. The existence and utilization of grievance procedures does not toll the running of the limitations period that would otherwise begin on the date of the firing, Title VII remedies being independent of other preexisting remedies available to an aggrieved employee. Alexander v. Gardner-Denver Co., 415 U.S. 36; Johnson v. Railway Express Agency, 421 U.S. 454. Pp. 236-240.

(a) Petitioner Guy, by pursuing the grievance procedures, was asserting an independent claim based on a contract right, and was in no way thereby prevented from filing her charge with the EEOC within 90 days of her discharge. Application of equitable principles to toll the 90-day period pending completion of the grievance procedures is therefore inappropriate here. Burnett v. New York Central R. Co., 380 U.S. 424, distinguished. Pp. 237-238.

(b) Congress clearly intended to retain other remedies "against private employment discrimination separate from and independent of the more elaborate and time-consuming procedures of Title VII," Johnson v. Railway Express Co., supra at 465-466. Pp. 239-240.

3. The 1972 amendments and their legislative history demonstrate that Congress intended to apply the 180-day period to a charge such as that filed by Guy where the charge was filed with the EEOC before these amendments became effective, was still pending when the amendments became effective, and alleged a discriminatory occurrence within 180 days on the enactment of the amendment. Pp. 241-243.

4. Lifting the bar of a statute of limitations so as to restore a remedy lost through mere lapse of time is not per se unconstitutional. Cf. Chase Securities Corp. v. Donaldson, 325 U.S. 304, 311-312. Pp. 243-244.

525 F.2d 124, reversed and remanded.

REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, BLACKMUN, and POWELL, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, STEWART, MARSHALL, and STEVENS, JJ., post, p. 244, filed a separate statement.

Page 231

REHNQUIST, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioners seek review of a decision of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit holding that a claim brought by petitioner Dortha Guy under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was barred by her failure to file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within the statutory limitations period. They present three contentions: the existence and utilization of grievance procedures postpone the date on which an allegedly discriminatory firing took place; the existence and utilization of grievance procedures toll the running of the limitations period which would otherwise begin on the date of the firing; and the 1972 amendments to Title VII, Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, 86 Stat. 103 (Mar. 24, 1972), extending the limitations period from 90 to 180 days, apply to the charge in this case.

I

Respondent Robbins & Myers, Inc. (hereinafter respondent), terminated the employment of petitioner Guy on October 25, 1971, and assigned as its reason for doing so her failure to comply with procedures contained in the collective bargaining agreement pertaining to leaves of absence. Two days later, petitioner caused a grievance alleging an "unfair action" of the company in firing [97 S.Ct. 445] her to be filed on her

Page 232

behalf in accordance with the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement then in force between petitioner Local 790 of the International Union of Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers (Local 790) and respondent. That agreement's dispute-resolution procedure, which is to be commenced within "five (5) working days of the commission of the act originating the grievance," consists of three grievance steps followed by one arbitration step. Guy's grievance was processed through the third step of the grievance procedure, where it was denied on November 18, 1971, with the finding that her termination had been in accordance with the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement.

On February 10, 1972, a date 84 days after the denial of her grievance at the third stage, but 108 days after the date of her discharge, Guy, who is black, filed a charge of racial discrimination with the EEOC directed against both respondent and Local 790. The EEOC, in November, 1973, issued its determination and "right to sue" letter, finding that there was "no reason to believe that race was a factor in the decision to discharge" Guy. Her suit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5 was met by a motion to dismiss on the ground, inter alia, that-it was barred because of her failure to file a charge with the EEOC within 90 days of her discharge, § 706(d), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(d).1 The District Court dismissed her action,2 and the

Page 233

Court of Appeals affirmed that judgment by a divided vote, 525 F.2d 124 (1975). That court felt that it would be "utterly inconsistent" with our opinions in Johnson v.Railway Express Agency, 421 U.S. 454 (1975) and in Alexander v. Gardner-Denver Co., 415 U.S. 36 (1974), to hold that the pursuit of a contractual grievance procedure operates to toll a Title VII remedy "which the employee has a right to resort to concurrently." 525 F.2d at 126. Then, noting the question of the applicability of the 1972 amendments to Title VII raised by the EEOC as amicus curiae (also noting, without more, that, "[s]ince this issue was not raised in the District Court by any party to the case, we are not required to consider it"), the Court of Appeals stated:

Plaintiff Guy's claim was barred on January 24, 1972. She did not file her charge with EEOC until February 10, 1972. The amendments to Title VII, increasing the time within which to file her charge to 180 days, did not become effective until March 24, 1972. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e) [1970 ed., Supp. V]. The subsequent increase of time to file the charge enacted by Congress could not revive plaintiff's claim which had been previously barred and extinguished.

525 F.2d at 128.

The dissenting judge disagreed on this point, believing that the case should be remanded for consideration of the effect of the 1972 amendments.

We granted certiorari, 425 U.S. 950, to resolve an apparent Circuit conflict on two of these issues: tolling during the pendency of a collective bargaining contract's grievance mechanism,3 and the applicability of the 1972 amendments

Page 234

to charges filed more than 90 days from the date of the alleged discriminatory act but less than 180 days before the time the amendments became effective.

II

Before reaching either of those questions, however, petitioners Guy and Local 790 assert that the complaint with the EEOC was timely filed not because of any tolling concept, but simply because the date "the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred" is the date of the conclusion of the collective bargaining agreement's grievance-arbitration procedures. Until that time, we are told, the October 25 discharge of Guy (although itself an "occurrence" allowing immediate resort to the EEOC) was "tentative" and "nonfinal," and remained so until she terminated the grievance and arbitration process, at which time the "final" occurrence transpired.4 As a consequence, according to petitioners, the unfavorable termination of the grievance procedures, making the discharge "final," constituted an "occurrence" enabling Guy to start the 90-day period running from that date.

While the parties could conceivably have agreed to a contract under which management's ultimate adoption of a supervisor's recommendation would be deemed the relevant statutory "occurrence," this was not such a contract. For...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP
373 practice notes
  • 586 F.2d 90 (8th Cir. 1978), 78-1193, Rudolph v. Wagner Elec. Corp.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
    • 8 Noviembre 1978
    ...has specifically been rejected by the Supreme Court in International Union of Electrical Workers, Local 790 v. Robbins & Myers, Inc., 429 U.S. 229, 234-35, 97 S.Ct. 441, 50 L.Ed.2d 427 (1976). Rudolph alleges her fact situation can be distinguished from Electrical Workers primarily beca......
  • 665 F.Supp. 575 (N.D.Ill. 1986), 86 C 5923, Sager v. Hunter Corp.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 7th Circuit Northern District of Illinois
    • 28 Octubre 1986
    ...Title VII is not tolled while the plaintiff resorts to a different legal remedy. Electrical Workers Union v. Robbins & Myers, Inc., 429 U.S. 229, 236-40, 97 S.Ct. 441, 447-49, 50 L.Ed.2d 427 (1976); see also Johnson v. Railway Express Agency, Inc., 421 U.S. 454, 466, 95 S.Ct. 1716, 1723......
  • 707 F.2d 748 (3rd Cir. 1983), 82-1246, Kocian v. Getty Refining & Marketing Co.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
    • 12 Mayo 1983
    ...and after that period misled her into believing that her charge was timely. Relying on Electrical Workers v. Robbins & Myers, Inc., 429 U.S. 229, 97 S.Ct. 441, 50 L.Ed.2d 427 (1976), we have specified three principal, though not exclusive, situations where equitable tolling may be appro......
  • 997 F.2d 1394 (11th Cir. 1993), 92-6033, Elston v. Talladega County Bd. of Educ.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
    • 13 Agosto 1993
    ...of Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Hous. Dev. Corp., 429 U.S. 252, 265, 97 S.Ct. 555, 563, 50 L.Ed.2d 450 (1977); Washington v. Davis, 429 U.S. 229, 239-48, 96 S.Ct. 2040, 2047-52, 48 L.Ed.2d 597 (1976). Discriminatory intent may be established by evidence of such factors as substantial d......
  • Free signup to view additional results
366 cases
  • 586 F.2d 90 (8th Cir. 1978), 78-1193, Rudolph v. Wagner Elec. Corp.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
    • 8 Noviembre 1978
    ...has specifically been rejected by the Supreme Court in International Union of Electrical Workers, Local 790 v. Robbins & Myers, Inc., 429 U.S. 229, 234-35, 97 S.Ct. 441, 50 L.Ed.2d 427 (1976). Rudolph alleges her fact situation can be distinguished from Electrical Workers primarily beca......
  • 665 F.Supp. 575 (N.D.Ill. 1986), 86 C 5923, Sager v. Hunter Corp.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 7th Circuit Northern District of Illinois
    • 28 Octubre 1986
    ...Title VII is not tolled while the plaintiff resorts to a different legal remedy. Electrical Workers Union v. Robbins & Myers, Inc., 429 U.S. 229, 236-40, 97 S.Ct. 441, 447-49, 50 L.Ed.2d 427 (1976); see also Johnson v. Railway Express Agency, Inc., 421 U.S. 454, 466, 95 S.Ct. 1716, 1723......
  • 707 F.2d 748 (3rd Cir. 1983), 82-1246, Kocian v. Getty Refining & Marketing Co.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
    • 12 Mayo 1983
    ...and after that period misled her into believing that her charge was timely. Relying on Electrical Workers v. Robbins & Myers, Inc., 429 U.S. 229, 97 S.Ct. 441, 50 L.Ed.2d 427 (1976), we have specified three principal, though not exclusive, situations where equitable tolling may be appro......
  • 997 F.2d 1394 (11th Cir. 1993), 92-6033, Elston v. Talladega County Bd. of Educ.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
    • 13 Agosto 1993
    ...of Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Hous. Dev. Corp., 429 U.S. 252, 265, 97 S.Ct. 555, 563, 50 L.Ed.2d 450 (1977); Washington v. Davis, 429 U.S. 229, 239-48, 96 S.Ct. 2040, 2047-52, 48 L.Ed.2d 597 (1976). Discriminatory intent may be established by evidence of such factors as substantial d......
  • Free signup to view additional results
1 firm's commentaries
6 books & journal articles
  • Let Louisiana's Bastards Beat the Clock: It's Time to Amend Article 197
    • United States
    • Louisiana Law Review Nbr. 80-4, July 2020
    • 1 Julio 2020
    ...v. Raybestos–Manhattan, 696 F.2d 459, 460 (6th Cir. 1982); see also Int’l Union of Elec., Radio, and Mach. Workers v. Robbins & Myers, 429 U.S. 229, 243–44 (1976) (finding that Congress could constitutionally provide for retroactive application of an extended time period, thereby revivi......
  • Table of Cases
    • United States
    • Major Issues in the Federal Law of Employment Discrimination (Fourth Edition) Appendix
    • 22 Agosto 2004
    ...House, Inc., 534 U.S. 279 (2002), 100 EEOC v. Wyoming, 460 U.S. 226 (1983), 134, 144 Electrical Workers v. Robbins & Myers, Inc., 429 U.S. 229 (1976), 94 Employment Div., Dep't of Human Res. v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990), 82 Emporium Capwell Co. v. Western Addition Cmty. Org., 420 U.S. ......
  • 73 J. Kan. Bar Assn. 10, 18-27 (2004). Title VII at 40: A Look Back.
    • United States
    • Kansas Bar Journal Nbr. 2004, January 2004
    • 1 Enero 2004
    ...v. Gilbert, 429 U.S. 125 (1976)* International Union of Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers v. Robbins & Myers, Inc., 429 U.S. 229 (1976) International Brotherhood of Teamsters v. United States, 431 U.S. 324 (1977) United Air Lines v. Evans, 431 U.S. 553 (1977) T......
  • Life after Morrison: extraterritoriality and RICO.
    • United States
    • Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law Vol. 44 Nbr. 5, November 2011
    • 1 Noviembre 2011
    ...Id. at 233. (95.) H.J., Inc. v. Nw. Bell Tel. Co., 648 F. Supp. 419, 425 (D. Minn. 1986), aff'd, 829 F.2d 648 (8th Cir. 1987), rev'd, 429 U.S. 229 (1989). (96.) H.J., 492 U.S. at 234-35 (alteration in original) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). (97.) Id. at 240. (98.) Id. at......
  • Free signup to view additional results