Minor v. Northville Public Schools

Decision Date28 March 1985
Docket NumberNo. 81-40371.,81-40371.
Citation605 F. Supp. 1185
PartiesMary C. MINOR, Plaintiff, v. NORTHVILLE PUBLIC SCHOOLS and Northville Board of Education, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of Michigan

COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

Jean L. King, Ann Arbor, Mich., for plaintiff.

Terrence J. Miglio, Detroit, Mich., for defendants.

ORDER ACCEPTING MAGISTRATE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

NEWBLATT, District Judge.

The Court having reviewed the Magistrate's Report and Recommendation filed on March 5, 1985, as well as any objections filed thereto;

IT IS ORDERED that the Report and Recommendation is accepted and entered as the findings and conclusions of this Court.

MAGISTRATE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

March 5, 1985

MARC L. GOLDMAN, United States Magistrate.

I FACTS

From August, 1974 to the present time plaintiff, Mary C. Minor, has been employed as a full-time physical education teacher for the Northville Public Schools. For the school years beginning in 19731, 1974 and 1975, she accepted various coaching assignments of women's sports teams. Prior to beginning an assignment, all coaches, including plaintiff, signed supplementary salary notices which identified the sport to be coached and the rate of pay for these duties. The substance of this lawsuit is plaintiff's allegation that the rate of pay for female coaches was discriminatory and in violation of Title VII of the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e), in that the rate of pay was less than that for male coaches handling equivalent coaching responsibilities. Plaintiff also claims that defendant's discriminatory treatment violated her rights as a third party beneficiary of a contract entered into between the defendant and the United States, pursuant to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq.

Plaintiff's Title VII claim is complicated by its tortuous procedural history. On February 27, 1976, plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights against the Northville Public Schools. On April 20, 1976, the charge was referred to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Plaintiff requested a right to sue letter from the EEOC on November 30, 1976, prior to the conclusion of the EEOC investigation, indicating that she was "prepared to file suit in Federal Court in Detroit". By requesting the right to sue notice, she terminated the investigation by the EEOC into her charges. 29 C.F.R. § 1601.25b(d). On February 4, 1977, the right to sue letter was issued by the EEOC. This letter specifically informed plaintiff that she could institute a lawsuit in federal district court within 90 days of its receipt.

Plaintiff's receipt of the letter and knowledge of her rights is evidenced by a memorandum of the EEOC dated April 21, 1977, indicating that counsel for plaintiff had informed the EEOC that an action had been filed in United States District Court and that administrative proceedings should stop (Exhibit I, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment). This statement was not true. Despite the request for and receipt of the right to sue letter, no action was filed in the United States District Court within the 90-day time period. Indeed, no action was taken until September 17, 1979 when plaintiff filed a class action against the defendant and others in the Circuit Court for the County of Ingham, Michigan. This action alleged violation of a number of State and Federal laws, including Title VII, the Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d) and the Michigan Elliott-Larsen Act, M.C.L.A. § 37.2101 et seq.

According to defendant, on June 30, 1981, after extensive litigation, the state court dismissed plaintiff's state claims as being untimely filed, and dismissed the Title VII claim on the ground that it lacked jurisdiction. (P. 8, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment). The actual date that the order of dismissal was entered is unknown to this writer. On June 22, 1981, the Department of Justice issued plaintiff a second notice of right to sue based on the 1976 discrimination charge (App. 1, Complaint). It is apparent that plaintiff's request for the notice was submitted to the Justice Department in response to the defendant's motion to dismiss the Title VII claim, on jurisdictional grounds, in state court.

On September 17, 1981, eighty seven days after issuance of the second right to sue letter, plaintiff filed the instant action in this court against the Northville Public Schools and the Northville Board of Education. The Board of Education was later dismissed as a defendant by stipulation of the parties (Docket Entry # 32). On September 18, 1981, plaintiff moved to amend her state court complaint to add claims of retaliatory employment practices on the part of the Northville Public Schools. She claimed not to have been offered certain coaching positions in 1980 due to her filing of the civil rights complaint. The disposition of this motion is unknown to the undersigned.

On October 19, 1981, the defendant filed a third-party complaint in this court against the Northville Education Association, collective bargaining agent for the faculty of the Northville Public Schools. Subsequently, on January 25, 1982, plaintiff moved to amend the complaint currently pending in this court to add a claim of breach of a duty not to discriminate which she alleged was owed to her as a third-party beneficiary to assurances of non-discrimination made by defendant as required under § 902 of Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681, 34 C.F.R. § 106.4. Leave to amend was granted on March 2, 1982. On April 6, 1982, the motion of the Northville Education Association to strike the third-party complaint was granted.

The defendant in this action filed a motion for dismissal and/or for summary judgment on October 19, 1982. On February 25, 1983, three days prior to argument on this motion, plaintiff moved to amend her federal court complaint for the second time to add allegations of retaliatory hiring practices against Northville Public Schools, the same allegation which formed the basis of her motion to amend the complaint filed in state court on September 18, 1981. These motions are currently before the court for decision. In short, defendant claims that this action is barred by the failure of plaintiff to file the action within 90 days of receipt of the right to sue letter issued by the EEOC on January 14, 1977. Defendant alleges, in the alternative, that this action is barred by the doctrine of laches. Defendant has further moved the court to dismiss all claims of discriminatory treatment which were filed in excess of 300 days prior to the filing of the EEOC claim. Defendant raises other legal challenges to plaintiff's claims arising under the contract/Title IX claim. As the undersigned is of the opinion that both the Title VII and contract/Title IX claims are barred by the respective statutes of limitations, only those issues will be discussed.

II TITLE VII CLAIM

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act requires that any civil action arising under the statute be filed within 90 days after receipt of a right to sue "notice." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1). Prior to 1982, this requirement was deemed to be jurisdictional, although subject to equitable tolling. Fox v. Eaton Corp., 615 F.2d 716 (6th Cir.1980); Leake v. University of Cincinnati, 605 F.2d 255 (6th Cir.1979). However, in Zipes v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 455 U.S. 932, 102 S.Ct. 1417, 71 L.Ed.2d 643 (1982), the Supreme Court held that another Title VII time requirement, the 300-day time limit for filing charges with the EEOC or applicable state agency, was subject to waiver, estoppel or equitable tolling. Since that time, in accordance with reasoning in Zipes, receipt of a "right to sue" notice and the 90-day filing requirement similarly have been considered conditions precedent to a Title VII claim, rather than jurisdictional prerequisites. Pinkard v. Pullman-Standard, 678 F.2d 1211, 1215 (5th Cir., Unit B, 1982); Jackson v. Seaboard Coast Line Railroad Co., 678 F.2d 992 (11th Cir. 1982); Rice v. New England College, 676 F.2d 9 (1st Cir.1982); see also, Ruiz v. Shelby County Sheriff's Dept., 725 F.2d 388 (6th Cir.1984). Subsequently, in Baldwin County Welcome Center v. Brown, ___ U.S. ___, 104 S.Ct. 1723, 80 L.Ed.2d 196 (1984), the Supreme Court explicitly recognized that the time limitation on filing a Title VII action in federal court is not jurisdictional but a condition precedent which is subject to equitable tolling.

Defendant has moved to dismiss this action alleging that since plaintiff was issued a right to sue notice by the EEOC on February 4, 1977, her failure to file this action until September 17, 1981, far in excess of the 90-day limitation, mandates dismissal. Plaintiff, on the other hand, submits that under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5, only the Justice Department may issue a right to sue letter in an action involving a government employer. Accordingly, plaintiff contends that the right to sue letter issued by the EEOC in 1977 was a nullity and that this action under Title VII did not accrue until June 22, 1981, the date the Department of Justice issued its notice of right to sue. Since this action was filed 87 days after the date of the issuance of that letter, plaintiff contends that the action is timely.

The applicable statutory provision governing the respective roles of the EEOC and the Justice Department in processing complaints under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f), provides in pertinent part:

If a charge filed with the Commission pursuant to subsection (b) of this section is dismissed by the Commission, or if within one hundred and eighty days from the filing of such charge or the expiration of any period of reference under subsection (c) or (d) of this section, whichever is later, the Commission has not filed a civil action under this section or the Attorney General has not filed a civil action in a case involving
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