Brown v. Mead Corp., No. 79-3457

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore LIVELY and KEITH, Circuit Judges, and BOYLE; PATRICIA J. BOYLE
Parties25 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. 684, 25 Empl. Prac. Dec. P 31,730 Patricia BROWN, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. MEAD CORPORATION, Defendant-Appellee.
Docket NumberNo. 79-3457
Decision Date13 April 1981

Page 1163

646 F.2d 1163
25 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. 684,
25 Empl. Prac. Dec. P 31,730
Patricia BROWN, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
MEAD CORPORATION, Defendant-Appellee.
No. 79-3457.
United States Court of Appeals,
Sixth Circuit.
Argued Feb. 11, 1981.
Decided April 13, 1981.

Page 1164

Andrew Fishman, Columbus, Ohio, for plaintiff-appellant.

Richard DuRose, Smith & Schmacke, Dayton, Ohio, for defendant-appellee.

Before LIVELY and KEITH, Circuit Judges, and BOYLE, District Judge. *

PATRICIA J. BOYLE, District Judge.

This appeal presents the question of whether a plaintiff in a Title VII action, who received two successive, facially valid right-to-sue notices from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), but who did not commence a suit in a district court within ninety days of receipt of the first notice, is precluded from proceeding under the second notice.

The essential facts involve the issuance to appellant of two separate right-to-sue notices by the EEOC. In 1970 appellant filed an EEOC complaint alleging she was discriminated against when her employer terminated her. In December of 1974, appellant was issued a "right to sue" notice that included an EEOC determination that there was no reasonable cause to believe that she was discharged or refused a promotion based on her sex. She took no court action. In January of 1978, appellant received another notice from the EEOC. This notice stated that the Commission found reasonable cause to believe her charge of discrimination is true and, again, notified her of her right to commence suit in United States District Court. Accompanying the second notice was a letter advising appellant that the determination and notice of right to sue issued in December of 1974 "was the product of administrative error and should be disregarded as having been outside the authority of this office to issue." Pursuant to the second notice of right to sue, appellant commenced this action.

The district court dismissed the action, ruling that the second notice of right to sue was invalid since the first notice created jurisdiction and subjected appellant to running of the ninety-day statutory period for filing. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1). Appellant contests this ruling on the theory that the first notice was a nullity, void ab initio, because the EEOC District Director of the issuing office did not have authority to issue

Page 1165

the determination and right-to-sue letter. 1

Title VII filing requirements are jurisdictional, Mohasco Corp. v. Silver, 447 U.S. 807, 100 S.Ct. 2486, 65 L.Ed.2d 532 (1980); Goodman v. City Products Corp., 425 F.2d 702 (6th Cir. 1970); see Occidental Life Insurance Co. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 432 U.S. 355, 372, 97 S.Ct. 2447, 2457, 53 L.Ed.2d 402 (1977), but are susceptible to equitable tolling in limited circumstances. Leake v. University of Cincinnati, 605 F.2d 255 (6th Cir. 1979). This court has applied equitable tolling concepts in a situation where the defendant-employer made affirmative representations which caused the plaintiff-employee to delay filing a claim, Leake v. University of Cincinnati, supra, and in a circumstance where the employee reasonably failed correctly to predict whether a state court would have jurisdiction and, therefore, filed in state court with the ultimate result that her claim was dismissed. Fox v. Eaton Corp., 615 F.2d 716 (6th Cir. 1980). 2 We have cautioned, however, that the concept is not an escape valve through which jurisdictional requirements will evaporate since "(t)he tolling of the statutory periods on equitable grounds is usually very much restricted." Geromette v. General Motors Corp., 609 F.2d 1200, 1203 (6th Cir. 1979), cert. denied, 446 U.S. 985, 100 S.Ct. 2967, 64 L.Ed.2d 841 (1980).

We must decide, then, whether the first right-to-sue notification, even if issued without proper administrative authority, commenced, for once and for all, the appellant's statutory period for bringing a court action and, if so, whether there exist grounds in the instant case for application of the doctrine of equitable tolling. We conclude that the appellant's case was properly dismissed because the first notification of right to sue was sufficient to support an action and because the appellant cannot successfully invoke an equitable tolling defense to the jurisdictional challenge raised by appellee.

The keystone of appellant's argument is her claim that the first notice of right to sue was a nullity. Stressing this point, she attempts to distinguish precedents in which there were two notices, but the first was valid. In Cleveland v. Douglas Aircraft Co., 509 F.2d 1027 (9th Cir. 1975) (per curiam), the EEOC issued two right-to-sue letters to the plaintiff. The plaintiff had commenced suit on the basis of the first but then had dismissed it voluntarily when the EEOC advised him that he could dismiss his action to give the agency an opportunity fully to process his case. When the second notice was issued and suit was brought, the court upheld the decision that the statutory period ran from the issuance of the first notice and that plaintiff's claim now was barred, despite his good faith reliance on the advice from the EEOC. Specifically, the court expressed concern that, "(t)o accept the EEOC's action in issuing the second letter as proper would vitiate the congressionally mandated period of limitation in favor of a hodgepodge of ad hoc determinations by the EEOC." Cleveland, 509 F.2d at 1030. While it is true that the initial notice issued in Cleveland was not determined to be invalid, the legitimate concern for avoiding variations in the statutory

Page 1166

scheme caused by inconsistency within the EEOC is applicable to...

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38 practice notes
  • Tadros v. Coleman, No. 88 Civ. 4431 (RPP).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • August 15, 1989
    ...is time barred. Cf. Soso Liang Lo v. Pan American World Airways, Inc., 787 F.2d 827 (2d Cir.1986) (per curiam); Brown v. Mead Corp., 646 F.2d 1163 (6th Cir.1981); Evans v. Continental Banking Co., 21 Fair.Empl. Prac.Cas. (BNA) 773 (W.D.Tenn.1979); Pradia v. Gulf Oil Co., 20 Fair.Empl.Prac. ......
  • Minor v. Northville Public Schools, No. 81-40371.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District Michigan)
    • March 28, 1985
    ...would trigger the 90-day period in which to commence suit. The facts of this case are not unlike those presented in Brown v. Mead Corp., 646 F.2d 1163 (6th Cir.1981). In Brown, the plaintiff filed a discrimination complaint against the defendant in 1970. In December, 1974, she was issued a ......
  • Gordon v. National Youth Work Alliance, No. 81-1284
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • April 2, 1982
    ...n.9, 100 S.Ct. at 2489 n.9, 65 L.Ed.2d at 539 n.9. 33 See id. at 826, 100 S.Ct. at 2497, 65 L.Ed.2d at 539. 34 See Brown v. Mead Corp., 646 F.2d 1163, 1165 (6th Cir. 1981); Fox v. Eaton Corp., 615 F.2d 716, 718 (6th Cir. 1980), cert. denied, 450 U.S. 935, 101 S.Ct. 1401, 67 L.Ed.2d 371 (198......
  • Allen v. Diebold, Inc., No. 5:91 CV 2450.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Ohio
    • November 24, 1992
    ...Co., 660 F.2d 710, 712 (6th Cir.1981). The doctrine of equitable tolling is appropriate in "limited circumstances". Brown v. Mead Corp., 646 F.2d 1163, 1165 (6th Cir.1981). Because its application is "usually very much restricted," equitable tolling "is to be carefully applied." Wilson v. G......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
38 cases
  • Tadros v. Coleman, No. 88 Civ. 4431 (RPP).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • August 15, 1989
    ...is time barred. Cf. Soso Liang Lo v. Pan American World Airways, Inc., 787 F.2d 827 (2d Cir.1986) (per curiam); Brown v. Mead Corp., 646 F.2d 1163 (6th Cir.1981); Evans v. Continental Banking Co., 21 Fair.Empl. Prac.Cas. (BNA) 773 (W.D.Tenn.1979); Pradia v. Gulf Oil Co., 20 Fair.Empl.Prac. ......
  • Minor v. Northville Public Schools, No. 81-40371.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District Michigan)
    • March 28, 1985
    ...would trigger the 90-day period in which to commence suit. The facts of this case are not unlike those presented in Brown v. Mead Corp., 646 F.2d 1163 (6th Cir.1981). In Brown, the plaintiff filed a discrimination complaint against the defendant in 1970. In December, 1974, she was issued a ......
  • Gordon v. National Youth Work Alliance, No. 81-1284
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • April 2, 1982
    ...n.9, 100 S.Ct. at 2489 n.9, 65 L.Ed.2d at 539 n.9. 33 See id. at 826, 100 S.Ct. at 2497, 65 L.Ed.2d at 539. 34 See Brown v. Mead Corp., 646 F.2d 1163, 1165 (6th Cir. 1981); Fox v. Eaton Corp., 615 F.2d 716, 718 (6th Cir. 1980), cert. denied, 450 U.S. 935, 101 S.Ct. 1401, 67 L.Ed.2d 371 (198......
  • Allen v. Diebold, Inc., No. 5:91 CV 2450.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Ohio
    • November 24, 1992
    ...Co., 660 F.2d 710, 712 (6th Cir.1981). The doctrine of equitable tolling is appropriate in "limited circumstances". Brown v. Mead Corp., 646 F.2d 1163, 1165 (6th Cir.1981). Because its application is "usually very much restricted," equitable tolling "is to be carefully applied." Wilson v. G......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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