Shikles v. Sprint/United Management Company

Decision Date20 October 2005
Docket NumberNo. 03-3326.,03-3326.
Citation426 F.3d 1304
PartiesDavis SHIKLES, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. SPRINT/UNITED MANAGEMENT COMPANY, Defendant-Appellee. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America; Equal Employment Advisory Council, Amici Curiae.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Tenth Circuit

Dennis E. Egan, The Popham Law Firm, Kansas City, MO, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Paul W. Cane, Jr., Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, San Francisco, CA (David M. Eisenberg, Baker Sterchi Cowden & Rice, Kansas City, MO; Chris R. Pace, Sprint Corporation, Overland Park, KS; and Katherine C. Huibonhoa, Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, San Francisco, CA; with him on the brief), for Defendant-Appellee.

Barbara L. Sloan, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), Washington, D.C. (Eric S. Dreiband, Lorraine C. Davis, Vincent J. Blackwood, EEOC, Washington, D.C., with her on the brief) for amicus curiae EEOC in support of Plaintiff-Appellant.

Stephen A. Bokat, Robin S. Conrad, Ellen Dunham Bryant, National Chamber Litigation Center, Washington, D.C., and Ann Elizabeth Reesman, McGuiness Norris & Williams, Washington, D.C., filed a brief on behalf of amicus curiae The Equal Employment Advisory Council and The Chamber of Commerce of the United States in support of Defendant-Appellee.

Before EBEL, Circuit Judge, McWILLIAMS, Senior Circuit Judge, and FRIOT, District Judge.*

EBEL, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiff Davis Shikles appeals from a district court order granting summary judgment to Defendant Sprint/United Management Company ("Sprint") in Shikles' lawsuit alleging that Sprint violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 et seq., by denying him promotions and terminating him. (Aplt.App. at 12-13, 485, 510.) This appeal presents three important legal issues: (1) whether a private sector claimant must cooperate with the EEOC, while the EEOC processes the claimant's charge of discrimination, in order to exhaust his or her administrative remedies under the ADEA; (2) whether a plaintiff's exhaustion of administrative remedies is a jurisdictional prerequisite to suit under the ADEA; and (3) whether a plaintiff's failure to exhaust administrative remedies justifies dismissing his or her suit or instead justifies granting summary judgment to the defendant.

We hold that (1) the ADEA requires a private sector claimant to cooperate with the EEOC in order to exhaust his or her administrative remedies; (2) a plaintiff's exhaustion of administrative remedies is a jurisdictional prerequisite to suit under the ADEA; and (3) a plaintiff's failure to exhaust his or her administrative remedies does not justify granting summary judgment to the defendant, but rather justifies dismissing the case for lack of jurisdiction. Accordingly, we vacate the district court's judgment in favor of Sprint and remand the case to the district court with instructions to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction. Because we resolve the case on jurisdictional grounds, we do not reach the parties' arguments addressing the merits of Shikles' claim of discrimination.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Davis Shikles began working in Sprint's billing department in 1997, when he was fifty-six years old. Sprint terminated Shikles in March 2002 as part of a reduction in force.

On May 21, 2002, Shikles filed a charge with the EEOC alleging that his termination constituted unlawful age discrimination. While the charge also referenced the Kansas Human Rights Commission, the EEOC took responsibility for investigating the charge under a work-sharing arrangement with the state agency. See 29 C.F.R. § 1601.13(a)(4)(ii); id. § 1626.10(c); see also 2 Barbara Lindemann & Paul Grossman, Employment Discrimination Law 1217 & n.86, 1221-23 (3d ed.1996). Over the course of the next three months, Shikles and his attorney cancelled three scheduled telephone interviews with the EEOC investigator assigned to his case, failed repeatedly to return the investigator's telephone calls, and failed to submit information requested by the investigator.1 As a result, Shikles never provided the investigator with any information on his claim of discrimination beyond that contained in his initial EEOC charge.

On August 20, 2002—approximately ninety-one days after Shikles filed his EEOC charge—the EEOC dismissed the charge "because `[h]aving been given 30 days in which to respond, [he] failed to provide information, failed to appear or be available for interviews/conferences, or otherwise failed to cooperate to the extent that it was not possible to resolve [his] charge.'" A Notice of Right to Sue accompanied the charge dismissal notice.

In October 2002, Shikles sued Sprint in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas. Sprint moved for summary judgment, asserting that Shikles' failure to cooperate in the EEOC's investigation of his charge constituted a failure to exhaust administrative remedies that deprived the district court of subject matter jurisdiction. Shikles opposed the motion only as to his layoff claim, abandoning his claim about being denied promotions. The district court granted Sprint's motion, holding that "[a]llowing plaintiff to proceed with an ADEA claim after failing to cooperate with the EEOC would thwart the administrative process and turn the EEOC filing requirement into a mere formality."

On appeal, Shikles argues that he exhausted his administrative remedies because he filed a charge with the EEOC, as the ADEA requires, and the EEOC's sixty-day period of jurisdiction over his claim had ended by the time that he filed suit in the district court. The EEOC has filed an amicus brief supporting Shikles that argues that the employment discrimination laws do not condition a plaintiff's right to file a lawsuit against his employer on his cooperation with the EEOC during its administrative investigation of his or her charge. Sprint counters that because Shikles did not cooperate in the EEOC's investigation of his charge, he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies.

DISCUSSION

We review the district court's grant of summary judgment de novo. See Simms v. Okla. ex rel Dep't of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services, 165 F.3d 1321, 1326 (10th Cir.1999).

I. Relationship of the ADEA to Title VII and the ADA

The text of the ADEA does not state whether a plaintiff must cooperate with the EEOC while the EEOC processes his or her charge. Thus, we must look elsewhere to answer that question. The structure of the ADEA indicates that we should look to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq.—and, by extension, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq.—for an answer, and interpret the relevant provisions of the ADEA consistently with their counterparts in Title VII and the ADA.

The ADEA's enforcement scheme combines elements of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., and Title VII. See Lorillard v. Pons, 434 U.S. 575, 577-78, 98 S.Ct. 866, 55 L.Ed.2d 40 (1978). Violations of the ADEA generally are to be treated in the same manner as violations of the FLSA. See 29 U.S.C. § 626(b). For example, "[a]mounts owing . . . as a result of a violation" of the ADEA are to be treated as "unpaid minimum wages or unpaid overtime compensation" under the FLSA, and the rights created by the ADEA are to be "enforced in accordance with the powers, remedies, and procedures" of specified sections of the FLSA. Id.

In another nod to the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), the ADEA establishes two primary enforcement mechanisms. See Lorillard, 434 U.S. at 579, 98 S.Ct. 866. Under the FLSA provisions incorporated in § 7(b) of the ADEA, 29 U.S.C. § 626(b), the government may bring suit on behalf of an aggrieved individual for injunctive and monetary relief.2 See 29 U.S.C. §§ 216(c), 217. The incorporated FLSA provisions—together with § 7(c) of the ADEA, 29 U.S.C. § 626(c)—also authorize private civil actions for "such legal or equitable relief as will effectuate the purposes of" the ADEA.

However, the portion of the ADEA most relevant to this case is more similar to Title VII than to the FLSA. See 1 Lindemann & Grossman, supra, at 559. Although not required by the FLSA, prior to the initiation of any ADEA action, an individual must file a charge with the EEOC so that the agency can attempt to eliminate the alleged unlawful practice through informal methods. See 29 U.S.C. § 626(d); see also Lorillard, 434 U.S. at 579-80, 98 S.Ct. 866. After allowing the EEOC sixty days to notify the defendant of the charge and to attempt to conciliate the alleged unlawful practice, the individual may file suit (provided the EEOC has not brought suit on his or her behalf). See id. § 626(c) & (d).

This scheme tracks that of Title VII. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5. In fact, Congress amended this aspect of the ADEA to follow Title VII more closely. See Age Discrimination in Employment Act Amendments of 1978, Pub.L. No. 95-256, § 4, 92 Stat. 189, 190 (providing that the timely filing of a charge with the EEOC is a prerequisite to bringing a civil suit, as under Title VII, and eliminating the prerequisite of a timely notice of intent to file suit); see also Civil Rights Act of 1991, Pub.L. No. 102-166, § 115, 105 Stat. 1071, 1079 (providing that a civil suit must be filed within ninety days from the receipt of notice that EEOC proceedings have been terminated, rather than within two or three years of the unlawful conduct, as under the FLSA); Reorg. Plan No. 1 of 1978 § 2 (transferring enforcement authority over the ADEA from the Department of Labor, which also enforces the FLSA, to the EEOC, which also enforces Title VII).

To the extent that the charge filing requirements of the ADEA and Title VII are similar, courts must construe them consistently. See Oscar Mayer & Co. v. Evans, 441 U.S. 750, 756, 99 S.Ct. 2066, ...

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