501 U.S. 104 (1991), 89-1895, Astoria Federal Savings & Loan Association v. Solimino

Docket Nº:No. 89-1895
Citation:501 U.S. 104, 111 S.Ct. 2166, 115 L.Ed.2d 96, 59 U.S.L.W. 4616
Party Name:Astoria Federal Savings & Loan Association v. Solimino
Case Date:June 10, 1991
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 104

501 U.S. 104 (1991)

111 S.Ct. 2166, 115 L.Ed.2d 96, 59 U.S.L.W. 4616

Astoria Federal Savings & Loan Association



No. 89-1895

United States Supreme Court

June 10, 1991

Argued April 17, 1991




Respondent Solimino filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), alleging that petitioner Astoria Federal Savings and Loan Association had dismissed him because of his age, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (Age Act). Under a worksharing agreement, the EEOC referred his claim to the state agency responsible for claims under New York's Human Rights Law. That agency found no probable cause under state law to believe that he was terminated on account of age, and its decision was upheld on administrative review. Rather than appealing that decision to state court, Solimino filed in the Federal District Court an Age Act suit grounded on the same factual allegations considered in the state proceedings. The court granted Astoria's motion for summary judgment, holding that the State's age discrimination findings precluded federal litigation of the claim. The Court of Appeals reversed, inferring from the Age Act's structure a legislative intent to deny preclusive effect to such state administrative proceedings.

Held: Judicially unreviewed state administrative findings have no preclusive effect on age discrimination proceedings in federal court. While well-established common law principles, such as preclusion rules, are presumed to apply in the absence of a legislative intent to the contrary, Congress need not state expressly its intention to overcome [111 S.Ct. 2168] a presumption of administrative estoppel. Clear statement requirements are appropriate only where weighty and constant values are at stake, or where an implied legislative repeal is implicated. Atascadero State Hosp. v. Scanlon, 473 U.S. 234, 243; EEOC v. Arabian American Oil Co., 499 U.S. 244, 248; Morton v. Mancari, 417 U.S. 535, 551. Such values are not represented by the lenient presumption in favor of administrative estoppel, the suitability of which varies according to context; nor does a finding against estoppel in this case give rise to an implied legislative repeal. Thus, the test for the presumption's application is whether administrative preclusion would be inconsistent with Congress' intent in enacting the particular statute. University of Tennessee v. Elliott, 478 U.S. 788, 796. The Age Act implies, in its filing requirements, that federal courts should recognize no preclusion by state administrative findings. Both § 14(b) and § 7(d)(2) assume the possibility of federal consideration after state review. However, such proceedings would be strictly pro forma, with the employer likely enjoying an airtight defense, if state administrative findings were given preclusive effect. The provision, in § 14(b), for a claim's consideration in federal court after state proceedings are concluded would, as a result, be left essentially without effect, notwithstanding the rule that statutes should be read to avoid rendering superfluous any parts thereof. Administrative preclusion was likewise found not to apply with respect to claims arising under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in Elliott, supra, which held that Title VII's provision directing the EEOC to accord substantial weight to state administrative findings allowed for something less than preclusion. Id. at 795. It is immaterial that the Age Act lacks a similar delimitation, since the Title VII provision was only the most obvious piece of evidence that administrative estoppel does not operate in a Title VII suit. This holding also comports with the Age Act's broader scheme and enforcement provisions, and, although Congress' wisdom in deciding against administrative preclusion is not relevant to this determination, its choice has plausible policy support. Pp. 107-114.

901 F.2d 1148 (CA 2 1990), affirmed and remanded.

SOUTER, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Page 106

SOUTER, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE SOUTER delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question presented is whether claimants under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (Age Act or Act), 81 Stat. 602, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., are collaterally estopped to relitigate in federal court the judicially unreviewed findings of a state administrative agency made with respect to an age discrimination claim. We hold that such findings have no preclusive effect on federal proceedings.

Respondent Angelo Solimino had worked for petitioner Astoria Federal Savings and Loan Association for almost 40 years when, at age 63, he was dismissed from his position as a vice-president in the mortgage department. Less than two weeks later, on March 18, 1982, he filed a charge of age discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Under a worksharing agreement between it and the state agency, see 29 CFR § 1626.10 (1990), the EEOC referred the matter to the New York State Division of Human Rights, which is responsible for preliminary investigation and disposition of age discrimination cases under New York's Human Rights Law. On January 25, 1983, after a hearing at which [111 S.Ct. 2169] both parties were represented by counsel, the state agency found no probable cause to believe that petitioner had terminated respondent because of his age. The ruling...

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