Beverly v. Lone Star Lead Construction Corporation, No. 29620.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtGEWIN, MORGAN and ADAMS, Circuit
Citation437 F.2d 1136
PartiesWilliam J. BEVERLY, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. LONE STAR LEAD CONSTRUCTION CORPORATION, Defendant-Appellee.
Decision Date19 January 1971
Docket NumberNo. 29620.

437 F.2d 1136 (1971)

William J. BEVERLY, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
LONE STAR LEAD CONSTRUCTION CORPORATION, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 29620.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.

January 19, 1971.


437 F.2d 1137

William W. Kilgarlin, Gabrielle K. McDonald, Houston, Tex., Vilma M. Singer, William L. Robinson, Jack Greenberg, Norman C. Amaker, New York City, for plaintiff-appellant.

Frank J. Knapp, Thomas R. Beech, Butler, Binion, Rice, Cook & Knapp Houston, Tex., for defendant-appellee.

Stanley P. Hebert, Gen. Counsel, Russell Specter, Deputy Gen. Counsel, Julia P. Cooper, G. Maxine Bethel, Attys., Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Washington, D. C., amicus curiae.

Before GEWIN, MORGAN and ADAMS,* Circuit Judges.

GEWIN, Circuit Judge:

This case is among the first in another round of litigation growing out of the apparent inability of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to cope with the volume of complaints before it. It has already been determined by the overwhelming weight of authority that under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,1 the Commission may not defeat jurisdiction of the federal courts in a civil suit under Title VII by (1) a statement that it has been unable to determine whether reasonable cause exists to believe that there has been a violation of the Act,2 or (2) a failure to attempt to achieve voluntary compliance with the anti-discriminatory provisions of the Act.3 We are here called upon to decide whether an actual finding, that there is "no reasonable cause" to believe that a violation of Title VII has occurred, will defeat jurisdiction.4

437 F.2d 1138
We hold that it does not and reverse the judgment of the district court

On or about June 19, 1967 plaintiff-appellant William J. Beverly applied for a job with defendant-appellee Lone Star Lead Construction Co. (Lone Star); he was told by Lone Star that there were no available jobs and that there were "no applications." A week later he filed a charge with the EEOC alleging unlawful discrimination in violation of Title VII in that he had been denied employment because he was a Negro. By decision of April 7, 1969, the EEOC found that "reasonable cause does not exist to believe that the Respondent is in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act as alleged." On May 19, 1969, the Commission issued to appellant a "Notice of Right to Sue Within 30 Days" which stated: "Pursuant to Section 706(e) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,5 you are hereby notified that you may within thirty (30) days of receipt of this communication institute a civil action in the appropriate Federal District Court."

Appellant then brought this suit on June 11, 1969, alleging in his complaint that Lone Star had no Negro employees and had hired white employees subsequent to his thwarted attempt to make application. The district court granted Lone Star's motion for summary judgment and ruled that "a finding of reasonable cause is a jurisdictional prerequisite to suit in the federal district court."

Because we feel that we face a situation not contemplated by Congress6 and are unable to find satisfactory assistance in the history of this hotly contested legislation,7 our disposition of this case is based upon our view of the broad purposes of Title VII. We are convinced that Congress did not intend to make the EEOC final arbiter of complainants' rights.

The enforcement powers of the Commission are non-existent. Its efforts are only supplementary to those the plaintiff must employ himself. To hold that an administrative failure by an agency lacking enforcement power itself, can deprive the plaintiff of his right to sue, the main weapon of the Title VII arsenal, would exalt form over substance.8

This point has been so often asserted by this and other courts,9 most recently by

437 F.2d 1139
this circuit in Miller v. International Paper Co., supra, that discussion is not necessary

Nonetheless, the EEOC was intended to, and does, play an important role in the legislative scheme.10 Potential litigants are absolutely required to take a step which affords them at least an opportunity to reach a more amicable conciliation out of court.11

It seems clear, therefore, that the requirement of resort to the Commission was designed to give a discriminator opportunity to respond to persuasion rather than coercion, to soft words rather than the big stick of injunction; that the requirement was not designed to serve as a screen to prevent frivolous complaints from reaching the courts.12

We do not think the parties should be allowed to bypass this requirement.13 It is our interpretation of Title VII that there exists an absolute right in each complainant to bring a civil action in federal court. This right, however, is subject to one important proviso: The complainant must comply with the minimum jurisdictional requirements necessary to allow the opportunity for conciliation to mature. The purpose of the Act would indeed be frustrated if the Commission could be avoided entirely or if a party's right to proceed in federal court could be erased by a quasi-judicial determination of the EEOC.

We conclude therefore, that the administrative remedies available from the EEOC must be "exhausted" in the traditional sense of the term, as a prerequisite to federal suit.14 Mondy v. Crown Zellerbach states our position well:

We feel that this problem is properly treated as one of exhaustion of administrative remedies. These plaintiffs have decided to proceed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and therefore must do everything in their power to achieve their goals through the E.E.O.C. before going to court. But 42 U.S.C.A. § 2000e-5(e) sets out only two requirements for an aggrieved party before he can sue * * * There is nothing more that a person can do, and this Court will not ask that he be responsible for the Commission\'s failure to conciliate, as that body\'s inaction is beyond the control of the charging party. To bar a party from bringing suit because the E.E.O.C. has shirked its statutory responsibility would indeed be to provide a hollow remedy and to inflict an undeserved penalty upon an innocent person.15

To this end, the tenor of the cases has established only two jurisdictional

437 F.2d 1140
prerequisites to suit in federal court under Title VII: (1) the filing of a complaint with the EEOC and (2) the receipt of the statutory notice of right to sue.16 Early formulation of the latter requirement used the following language: "he must receive statutory notice from the EEOC that it has been unable to obtain voluntary compliance."17 Subsequent decisions have made it clear that this language, taken from Section 2000e-5, is not to be interpreted in its narrowest sense; it is not necessary either for the Commission to state in its notice that it has been unable to obtain voluntary compliance or for the Commission to have engaged in any attempt at conciliation whatsoever.18 The sole purpose of this requirement is to provide a formal notification to the claimant that his administrative remedies with the Commission have been exhausted. Significantly, under EEOC regulations, a right to demand and receive such a notice accrues sixty days after the charge is filed regardless of any act or omission by the EEOC.19 Were this regulation not written, we would read it into the Act lest a claimant's statutory right to sue in federal court become subject to such fortuitous variables as workload, mistakes, or possible lack of diligence of EEOC personnel.20

It is not contended by Lone Star that these conditions have not been met by appellant. Rather, they argue that by the language of section 706, the EEOC is without power to issue the statutory notice because the chain of events leading to the issuance of such notice has not been set in motion by a "reasonable cause" finding.21 The simple answer to this argument is that the contingency that the EEOC will find "no reasonable cause" is not dealt with in the statute. We decline to adopt Lone Star's proposed construction that the clear import of the Act requires us to treat such a finding as jurisdictional.22

437 F.2d 1141

Appellant has done all that is required of him and has utilized the only opportunities afforded by the Act to exhaust his administrative remedies. Considering the obviously remedial purposes of the Act, we do not believe that courts should deny a grievant an opportunity to prove the allegations of his complaint solely on the basis of a conclusion by the EEOC that reasonable cause does not exist. The Commission is neither required nor physically able to conduct an "in depth" investigation in every case; apparently the investigative procedure, in the instant case was performed on an ex parte basis, bereft of all of the advantages which come from an adversary proceeding in a court of law.23 The Commission possesses no power of enforcement; it cannot fix a penalty, issue a citation, or grant a cease and desist order. It seems completely unfair to nullify the grievant's complaint by a non-reviewable conclusion of the Commission, particularly when he has fully complied with the requirements of the statute. In the circumstances of this case the courts afford the only effective remedy under the present state of the law. Lawsuits and disputes are for the courts. We will not permit the single finding of this investigatory agency to stand as a complete defense which precludes all hope of adversary adjudication or remedial action in the courts. This conclusion is strongly supported by the decision of the Third...

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107 practice notes
  • Chaulk Services, Inc. v. Massachusetts Com'n Against Discrimination, No. 95-1249
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • August 2, 1995
    ...Co., 415 U.S. 36, 47-48, 94 S.Ct. 1011, 1019-20, 39 L.Ed.2d 147 (1974); see also Beverly v. Lone Star Lead Construction Corp., 437 F.2d 1136, 1140 n. 22 (5th Cir.1971); cf. Britt v. Grocers Supply Co., Inc., 978 F.2d 1441, 1447 (5th Cir.1992) ("[W]e have held that claims under Title VII are......
  • Laffey v. Northwest Airlines, Inc., Nos. 74-1791 and 75-1334
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • September 8, 1977
    ...Senate, referred to its ninety-day time period as a "period of limitations." Id. at 12723. 346 Beverly v. Lone Star Lead Constr. Corp., 437 F.2d 1136, 1138 (5th Cir. 1971); Sanchez v. Standard Brands, Inc., 431 F.2d 455, 461 (5th Cir. 1970); Harris v. Walgreen's Dist. Center, 456 F.2d 588, ......
  • Held v. Missouri Pacific Railroad Company, Civ. A. No. 73-H-1053.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
    • April 3, 1974
    ...Local 179, United Textile Workers v. Federal Paper Stock Co., 461 F.2d 849, 851 (8th Cir. 1972); Beverly v. Lone Star Construction Corp., 437 F.2d 1136, 1139-1140 (5th Cir. 1971). It has been held that the "right to file suit against the union" does not ripen until it is charged before the ......
  • Macklin v. Spector Freight Systems, Inc., No. 71-1259
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • May 9, 1973
    ...Insurance Companies, 143 U.S.App.D.C. 121, 123, 442 F.2d 843, 845 (1971) ; Beverly v. Lone Star Lead Construction Corp., 5 Cir., 437 F.2d 1136, 1139-1140 (1971).12 But once the agency has had at least 60 days in which to make such an attempt and no settlement has been reached, Section 706(e......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
107 cases
  • Chaulk Services, Inc. v. Massachusetts Com'n Against Discrimination, No. 95-1249
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • August 2, 1995
    ...Co., 415 U.S. 36, 47-48, 94 S.Ct. 1011, 1019-20, 39 L.Ed.2d 147 (1974); see also Beverly v. Lone Star Lead Construction Corp., 437 F.2d 1136, 1140 n. 22 (5th Cir.1971); cf. Britt v. Grocers Supply Co., Inc., 978 F.2d 1441, 1447 (5th Cir.1992) ("[W]e have held that claims under Title VII are......
  • Laffey v. Northwest Airlines, Inc., Nos. 74-1791 and 75-1334
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • September 8, 1977
    ...Senate, referred to its ninety-day time period as a "period of limitations." Id. at 12723. 346 Beverly v. Lone Star Lead Constr. Corp., 437 F.2d 1136, 1138 (5th Cir. 1971); Sanchez v. Standard Brands, Inc., 431 F.2d 455, 461 (5th Cir. 1970); Harris v. Walgreen's Dist. Center, 456 F.2d 588, ......
  • Held v. Missouri Pacific Railroad Company, Civ. A. No. 73-H-1053.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
    • April 3, 1974
    ...Local 179, United Textile Workers v. Federal Paper Stock Co., 461 F.2d 849, 851 (8th Cir. 1972); Beverly v. Lone Star Construction Corp., 437 F.2d 1136, 1139-1140 (5th Cir. 1971). It has been held that the "right to file suit against the union" does not ripen until it is charged before the ......
  • Macklin v. Spector Freight Systems, Inc., No. 71-1259
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • May 9, 1973
    ...Insurance Companies, 143 U.S.App.D.C. 121, 123, 442 F.2d 843, 845 (1971) ; Beverly v. Lone Star Lead Construction Corp., 5 Cir., 437 F.2d 1136, 1139-1140 (1971).12 But once the agency has had at least 60 days in which to make such an attempt and no settlement has been reached, Section 706(e......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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