Lawson v. Burlington Industries, Inc.

Decision Date22 July 1982
Docket NumberNo. 81-2192,81-2192
Citation683 F.2d 862
Parties29 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. 1224, 29 Empl. Prac. Dec. P 32,934 Berlin L. LAWSON, Appellant, v. BURLINGTON INDUSTRIES, INC., Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit

Jack E. Ruby, Winston Salem, N. C., for appellant.

William P. H. Cary, Greensboro, N. C. (Thornton H. Brooks, Kathrine A. McLendon, Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard, Greensboro, N. C., on brief), for appellee.

Before BUTZNER and SPROUSE, Circuit Judges, and KISER, * District Judge.

SPROUSE, Circuit Judge:

Berlin L. Lawson brought this suit under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 et seq., alleging that Burlington Industries, Inc. unlawfully terminated his employment and refused to transfer him to an acceptable position because of his age. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendant on the grounds that Lawson failed to file his discrimination charge within the statutory time period, 1 and that no equitable justifications for tolling the statutory period existed. We affirm.

Lawson was first hired by Burlington in 1959, and in 1979 he was working at the transportation facility of Klopman Mills, a division of Burlington. On April 1, 1979, all employees were informed that the facility was closing, that Burlington would attempt to find new positions for employees displaced by the closing, and that those employees not placed by June 30, 1979 would be terminated. Employees terminated because of the facility closing would have their benefits and company service credit restored if they were rehired within 270 days of their termination. Lawson's final day of work was June 30, 1979, although he was given severance pay through December, 1979.

Shortly before his termination Lawson, then age 44, complained to Burlington officials that a younger co-worker, age 38, was being transferred to an available position elsewhere in the company while he was being laid off. Lawson had more service with the company and believed he was better qualified, so he concluded that age discrimination was the motive behind the decision to transfer the younger worker rather than himself.

Lawson closed his retirement and profit-sharing accounts with Burlington when he was terminated; he received a lump-sum distribution of cash and stock, plus his severance pay, on July 19, 1979. Burlington offered Lawson a clerical job in another city on or about October 1, 1979, but he refused the position because of the inadequate salary. He was then told by a company official that "maybe we'll come up with something else ... if we do, we'll be in touch."

Lawson filed his age discrimination charge with the EEOC on February 5, 1980. He testified that he had considered filing the charge earlier, but had refrained because he hoped to be recalled. The EEOC charge dealt only with Burlington's decision to lay off Lawson while transferring the younger employee. Lawson filed suit in district court in June, 1980, claiming that age discrimination was the motive behind both the layoff and the October offer of a clerical position, which Lawson construed as a refusal to rehire him.

Burlington moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), or alternatively for summary judgment, Fed.R.Civ.P. 56, on the grounds that (1) Lawson had not filed his EEOC charge within 180 days after the alleged unlawful practice occurred and (2) his complaint was impermissibly broad as it raised issues not included in the EEOC charge. Following oral argument by both parties the district court granted summary judgment for the defendants, ruling that "(w)ith respect to the layoff on June 30, 1979, his charge of discrimination was filed more than 180 days after such layoff, and with respect to the other acts of discrimination alleged in the complaint, no charge of discrimination had been filed, and more than 180 days have now expired. Plaintiff has not presented a justification for this failure, which is sufficient to entitle him to equitable relief...."

Lawson first contends that the district court erred in dismissing from his complaint those allegations which were not included in his February 5, 1980 EEOC charge. We disagree. Illegal layoff-the charge which appeared in the EEOC notice-does not encompass an allegation of illegal failure to rehire. It is well established that a layoff from employment constitutes a completed act at the time it occurred Griffin v. Pacific Maritime Assoc., 478 F.2d 1118 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 414 U.S. 859...

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