Edwards v. Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Sales, Inc., 74-2864

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
Citation515 F.2d 1195
Docket NumberNo. 74-2864,74-2864
Parties10 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. 1398, 10 Empl. Prac. Dec. P 10,324 James F. EDWARDS, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. KAISER ALUMINUM & CHEMICAL SALES, INC., Defendant-Appellee.
Decision Date16 July 1975

Eugene E. Stearns, Guy B. Bailey, Jr., Miami, Fla., for plaintiff-appellant.

Wm. Reece Smith, Jr., Tampa, Fla., for defendant-appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Before BELL, DYER and SIMPSON, Circuit Judges.

SIMPSON, Circuit Judge:

James F. Edwards sued Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Sales, Inc. (Kaiser), his former employer, for damages for an allegedly wrongful discharge because of his age, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Title 29, U.S.C., Sec. 621 et seq. 1 The district court granted Kaiser's motion for summary judgment because Edwards failed to give the Secretary of Labor timely notice of his intent to sue, as required by Sec. 626(d)(1). 2 We affirm.

The controlling facts were stipulated by the parties. We accept for purposes of review, as the lower court did in granting summary judgment, Edwards' contention that Kaiser's termination of his employment violated the ADEA. On June 30, 1971, Kaiser discharged Edwards, its South Florida Sales Office Manager then fifty years old, after seventeen years employment. At the time of the discharge, Kaiser had failed to post notice of the ADEA as required by Sec. 627 3 and 29 C.F.R. Sec. 850.10. 4 In early September 1971, Edwards consulted an attorney to determine his legal rights. The attorney pressed claims with Kaiser on Edwards' behalf, and wrote Kaiser to express concern that the discharge was effected to deprive his client of maximum retirement benefits, but either he was unaware of or he did not advise appellant of remedies available under the ADEA, since it is undisputed that Edwards had no actual knowledge of the Act for more than six months following his discharge. The 180 day period during which Edwards was entitled to file notice of intent to sue with the Secretary of Labor lapsed without the requisite notice having been given.

In May 1972, after consulting a second set of attorneys, Edwards finally learned of his rights under the statute. On May 17, 1972, his new attorneys gave Kaiser written notice of additional claims, including possible ADEA violations. They did not, however, give the Secretary notice of intent to sue until February 16, 1973, more than one and a half years after the allegedly wrongful discharge and more than eight months after sending Kaiser the letter asserting Edwards' rights under the ADEA.

In the court below and on appeal, Edwards argued that Kaiser's failure to post notice of the statute constituted constructive fraud excusing his own failure to file notice with the Secretary within 180 days of discharge because he had no actual knowledge of his statutory rights in that 180 day period and the failure to post removed his "means of knowledge". He excuses the failure to give notice within 180 days of actual knowledge by arguing that the statutory period is a condition precedent which, unlike a statute of limitations, cannot be tolled. If it runs when his failure to file is excused, later acquired knowledge cannot resuscitate it.

Kaiser eschews labeling the 180 day period as either a condition precedent or a statute of limitations, arguing that, whatever it be called, it is a mandatory, jurisdictional requirement which can never be waived because of conduct on its part, but, at most, tolled until Edwards knew or should reasonably have known of his remedy. Since Edwards failed to give notice within 180 days of discharge, of hiring an attorney, or of actual knowledge, the maximum permissible period for filing lapsed. Kaiser further argues that even if the 180 day period cannot be tolled, and an employer may be estopped from raising the time bar because of failure to comply with Sec. 627, it is inappropriate to do so in the present situation because Edwards' retention of an attorney to pursue legal remedies for wrongs arising out of the discharge well within the 180 day period provided Edwards with ample "means of knowledge", and obviated any possible detriment resulting from breach of its statutory duty.

The district court rejected appellant's contention that the employer's failure to post notice relieved an employee of any obligation to file with the Secretary but indicated it would toll the 180 day period, which would begin to run anew no later than the time the employee acquired actual knowledge of his rights under the ADEA. The court thus determined that Kaiser's failure to post notice did not excuse Edwards' failure to file notice with the Secretary of Labor within 180 days of actual knowledge of his ADEA rights. The court deemed this circumstance of controlling significance and hence that it was unnecessary to decide whether the first and earlier retention of legal counsel would start the period running even though that attorney was either unaware of the statute or failed to advise Edwards of his rights under it.

At issue is the jurisdiction of the district court where the employee and the employer have failed to comply, respectively, with Secs. 626(d)(1) and 627. Sec. 627, as implemented by 29 C.F.R. Sec. 850.10, n. 3 and 4, supra, requires an employer to post in conspicuous places a notice of employee rights under the ADEA. No penalties are set out for violation of this duty, and the legislative history sheds little light on its intended purpose. Because of the novelty of the rights created, however, and congressional awareness that "the volume of complaints" under state age discrimination legislation "is related to public awareness of the law as a result of promotional activity, rather than to the effect of discrimination", 1967 U.S. Code Congressional and Administrative News, p. 2215, it is reasonable to infer that the posting requirement was intended to alert older employees to their newly created rights. This information would enable an employee to protect these rights, by pursuing his claims independently or by procuring an attorney to press his rights.

Sec. 626(d)(1), see n. 2, supra, provides that a civil action may be commenced only on giving the Secretary of Labor 60 days' notice of intent to sue, filed within 180 days of the allegedly unlawful act complained of. Notification and the 60 day notice period is required in order to give the Secretary an opportunity to comply with his statutory duty of seeking to eliminate any discriminatory practices by "informal methods of conciliation, conference, and persuasion". See Secs. 626(b) and 626(d). Only after this period of informal negotiation may the Secretary or an aggrieved individual sue to enforce statutory rights. See Secs. 626(b), (c) and (d).

The efforts of the Secretary are an integral part of the statutory scheme, 5 as we have had previous occasion to comment upon:

Perhaps the most interesting feature of the origin of the 180 day notice limitation is that it appeared in the original bill as introduced in the Senate, was deleted from the House passed bill, and was restored by the amendment in the Senate when the House bill was returned for consideration by the upper chamber. The House concurred in the amendment. Its restoration, together with that of several other portions of the original Senate bill, was "intended to answer some of the disquiet in American business . . . keeping also in mind the practical problems of administration, . . ." 113 Cong.Rec. 35056 (Remarks of Senator Javits).

Powell v. Southwestern Bell Telephone Co., 5 Cir. 1974, 494 F.2d 485, 488.

We also remarked upon the additional benefits secured during the six month notice period:

It is logical that the 180 day notice was intended to insure that potential defendants would become aware of their status and the possibility of litigation reasonably soon after the alleged discrimination since the notice goes from the Secretary of Labor on to the employer involved. In turn this would promote the good faith negotiation of employers during the 60 day conciliation period and provide an opportunity for preservation of evidence and records for use at a trial necessitated by failure of negotiation.

Id.; see Cochran v. Ortho Pharmaceutical Co., E.D.La.1971, 376 F.Supp. 302.

While Sec. 626 contemplates benefits to the employer and individual employee, it benefits other employees as well by eliminating discriminatory practices and policies. Further, the notice alerts the Secretary of Labor to situations which affect other employees and allows him to determine whether agency litigation should be initiated. See Bishop v. Jelleff Associates, Inc., D.D.C.1974, 7 EPD Cases P 9214; Burgett v. Cudahy Co., D.Kan.1973, 361 F.Supp. 617. It enhances employee/employer relations by encouraging voluntary rectification and precludes premature resort to the courts, conserving judicial resources. See Burgett v. Cudahy Co., supra.

The central importance to the statutory scheme of invoking the investigative and conciliatory powers of the Secretary impels us to hold that an employer's failure to comply with Sec. 627 does not extinguish completely an employee's duty to file timely notice of his intent to sue. To hold otherwise would unnecessarily frustrate Congressional will. Whether noncompliance justifies tolling the running of the 180 days until such time as the employee seeks out an attorney or acquires actual knowledge of his ADEA rights, thereby fulfilling the purposes of Sec. 627 was designed to accomplish, see text discussion of Sec. 627, supra, is an issue we need not reach on this record because of appellant's failure to file notice within 180 days of securing counsel or within 180 days of actual knowledge. 6

No forceful argument can be made in support of a complete waiver. Edwards argues that Sec. 626(d)(1) requires notice to the Secretary within 180 days of the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
97 cases
  • Franci v. Avco Corp., Civ. No. B-77-22.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
    • September 21, 1978
    ...Corp., 523 F.2d 1367 (6th Cir. 1975); Hiscott v. General Electric Co., 521 F.2d 632 (6th Cir. 1975); Edwards v. Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Sales, Inc., 515 F.2d 1195 (5th Cir. 1975); Powell v. Southwestern Bell Tel. Co., 494 F.2d 485 (5th Cir. 1975).7 However, more recently the Tenth, Seven......
  • Sullivan v. Board of Police Com'rs of City of Waterbury
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • May 7, 1985
    ...1287, 1288-89 (7th Cir.1978), cert. denied, 450 U.S. 959, 101 S.Ct. 1418, 67 L.Ed.2d 383 (1981); Edwards v. Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Sales, Inc., 515 F.2d 1195, 1197-99 (5th Cir.1975); Schlei & Grossman, Employment Discrimination Law (2d Ed.1983), pp. 489-92; the complete failure to give ......
  • Messer v. Meno, A-95-CA-165-SC.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Western District of Texas
    • July 8, 1996
    ...alleged discriminatory action. Love v. Pullman Co., 404 U.S. 522, 92 S.Ct. 616, 30 L.Ed.2d 679 (1972); Edwards v. Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Sales, Inc., 515 F.2d 1195 (5th Cir.1975). The operative date from which the 300 day period begins to run is the date of notice of adverse action. Del......
  • Kelley v. N.L.R.B., 95-1618
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • December 8, 1995
    ...F.Supp. 565, 569 (D.Minn.1983); see also Lopez v. Citibank, N.A., 808 F.2d 905, 907 (1st Cir.1987); Edwards v. Kaiser Aluminum & Chem. Sales, Inc., 515 F.2d 1195, 1200 n. 8 (5th Cir.1975); Leite v. Kennecott Copper Corp., 558 F.Supp. 1170, 1174 (D.Mass.), aff'd 720 F.2d 658 (1st Cir.1983). ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT