584 F.2d 853 (8th Cir. 1978), 78-1263, E.E.O.C. v. Liberty Loan Corp.

Docket Nº:78-1263.
Citation:584 F.2d 853
Party Name:Dec. P 8658 EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Appellant, v. LIBERTY LOAN CORPORATION, Appellee.
Case Date:October 06, 1978
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
 
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Page 853

584 F.2d 853 (8th Cir. 1978)

Dec. P 8658

EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Appellant,

v.

LIBERTY LOAN CORPORATION, Appellee.

No. 78-1263.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

October 6, 1978

Submitted Sept. 15, 1978.

Page 854

Neil A. G. McPhie, Atty., E.E.O.C., Washington, D. C., for appellant; Abner W. Sibal, Gen. Counsel, Joseph T. Eddins, Associate Gen. Counsel, Beatrice Rosenberg, Asst. Gen. Counsel, E.E.O.C., Washington, D. C., on the brief.

Michael J. Bobroff, Husch, Eppenberger, Donohue, Elson & Cornfeld, St. Louis, Mo., for appellee; Carroll J. Donohue and Sally E. Barker, St. Louis, Mo., on the brief.

Before GIBSON, Chief Judge, and ROSS and HENLEY, Circuit Judges.

HENLEY, Circuit Judge.

This is an appeal from an order of the district court 1 granting summary judgment to appellee, Liberty Loan Corporation. Appellant, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), filed suit against Liberty Loan on August 1, 1977 pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e Et seq. (Supp. V 1975), alleging discrimination against females at the company's St. Louis consumer loan branches. Without reaching the merits of this allegation, the district court dismissed the suit under section 706(1) of the Administrative Procedure Act (A.P.A.), 5 U.S.C. § 706(1) (1970), finding as a matter of law that the EEOC had been dilatory in filing suit against Liberty Loan and that the agency's unreasonable delay had prejudiced the company's ability to defend. We affirm the decision of the district court in dismissing this suit but do so without relying on section 706(1).

I

On April 20, 1973 Ms. Donna Anderson filed a charge of sex discrimination 2 against Liberty Loan at the EEOC district office in St. Louis. The charge was deferred to state officials until May of 1973 when the EEOC assumed jurisdiction of the case and notified Liberty Loan of the charge.

A year later Ms. Anderson's employment was terminated while this administrative action was still pending. Liberty Loan alleged the termination was simply a part of the company's over-all reduction in force in the St. Louis area which was implemented as a result of severe economic reverses suffered by the company in 1973 and 1974. Ms. Anderson, however, filed an amended charge with the EEOC on October 16, 1974 which included new allegations of sex discrimination based on her termination.

Shortly after the October filing, the EEOC's formal investigation began. Liberty Loan was given a second notice document which included the amended charges in November of 1974. The investigation lasted approximately nine months, and the agency issued a determination on August 21, 1975 that there was cause to believe Liberty Loan had engaged in discriminatory practices. The EEOC soon discovered that its investigators had inadvertently failed to address the termination allegations in Ms. Anderson's amended charge. Thus, in October of 1975 the agency reopened its investigation; and a revised determination was not issued until six months later.

At this point the EEOC and Liberty Loan began conciliation efforts. Upon failure to reach an agreement, the EEOC brought suit in August of 1977, four years and four months after Ms. Anderson filed her initial charge.

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The uncontroverted affidavits of Liberty Loan's top executive officers establish that during the course of the above administrative process the company suffered serious financial setbacks which forced a drastic, company-wide reorganization. All but one of Liberty Loan's nine St. Louis branch offices were closed during 1974 and 1975. Operational control of the company was transferred to new management which accelerated employee layoffs and branch office closings and instituted a new centralized personnel system.

In 1976 the one remaining St. Louis branch office ceased normal consumer operations which were not restored until 1977. Indeed, this single St. Louis office now employs only four persons. And, as the district court noted, of the one hundred and forty-five persons employed in the St. Louis area by Liberty Loan at the time of the initial charge, only five are still with the company. Ms. Anderson's immediate supervisors are no longer employed by the company, nor are any of the persons responsible for the company's personnel policies and practices in 1973. In effect, Liberty Loan is now an essentially different company from that which allegedly discriminated against her.

Based upon this evidence, the district court ruled that the lengthy administrative delay, caused in part by the EEOC's inadvertent failure to initially investigate all of Ms. Anderson's allegations, was unreasonable. It also found that Liberty Loan was prejudiced by this delay because all the persons even remotely connected with the original charge were no longer employees of the company. The St. Louis offices had been closed and their records...

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