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Ralis v. RFE/RL, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

February 8, 1985, Argued ; August 16, 1985, Decided

No. 84-5216

Opinion

 [*1122]  STARR, Circuit Judge:

This appeal comes to us from the District Court's dismissal of a complaint brought under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621-34 (1982), by a U.S. citizen working overseas. As it reaches us, the appeal raises, among other things, questions as to the ADEA's applicability to U.S. citizens who had worked for U.S. employers outside the United States prior to Congress's recent expansion of the ADEA's protective coverage to Americans employed abroad. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the District Court's judgment dismissing the action.

According to his complaint, Dr. Max Ralis is a U.S. citizen domiciled in Orleans, France. Beginning in 1956 and continuing for twenty-five [**2]  years, Dr. Ralis was employed in various radio programming positions in Europe by RFE/RL, Inc., which is better known by the names of its corporate predecessors, Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. In 1981, Dr. Ralis was involuntarily retired from his supervisory position in a small branch office of RFE/RL, Inc., solely on grounds of his having reached the corporation's mandatory retirement age of 65. Following his forced retirement, Dr. Ralis filed a charge of age discrimination with the EEOC and duly exhausted his administrative remedies.

Stymied in his quest for administrative relief, Dr. Ralis thereafter filed suit in United States District Court for the District of Columbia. His three-page complaint alleged that his involuntary termination of employment ran afoul of the ADEA, thereby warranting his reinstatement with back pay. Complaint at 3.  RFE/RL, Inc. promptly filed a 12(b) (6) motion to dismiss, contending that the ADEA had no applicability to employment, such as Dr. Ralis's, performed outside the United States. Seizing upon the ADEA's incorporation in 29 U.S.C. § 626 (1982) of a jurisdiction-limiting provision of the Fair Labor Standards [**3]  Act, 29 U.S.C. § 213(f) (1982), the defendant maintained that the ADEA's reach, unlike other federal anti-discrimination statutes, stopped by its express terms at the jurisdictional boundaries of another sovereign nation. That jurisdictional section provided simply that the FLSA, and hence the ADEA which expressly incorporated the provision, "shall not apply with respect to any employee whose services during the workweek are performed within a foreign country." Relying upon a then-recent district court decision, Cleary v. United States Lines, Inc., 555 F. Supp. 1251 (D.N.J.1983) (subsequently affirmed by the Third Circuit, 728 F.2d 607 (3d Cir. 1984)), RFE/RL, Inc. argued that the plain terms of the ADEA restricted its reach to workplaces within the territorial limits of  [*1123]  the United States.  As an American expatriate working in Europe for a quarter century, Dr. Ralis could not, RFL/RL, Inc. maintained, bring himself within the statute's coverage.

In response, Dr. Ralis argued, among other things, that the ADEA's territorial limitation had no applicability to a "government controlled corporation." Employees of "executive [**4]  agencies (including those of government corporations or government controlled corporations)" were, Dr. Ralis observed, indisputably within the ADEA's reach. RFE/RL, Inc., the argument ran, was a "government controlled corporation" by virtue of the "high degree of governmental involvement in [its] purposes, operations and management." Plaintiff's Opposition at 5. That "high degree of governmental involvement" was evidenced, plaintiff argued, by (1) the existence of the Board for International Broadcasting ("BIB"), a statutorily created entity which controlled RFE/RL, Inc.; (2) various indicia of federal government control over RFE/RL, Inc., through (a) budget and funding approval requirements, (b) BIB authority over appointment of certain radio personnel, (c) BIB's oversight authority of RFE/RL's, Inc.'s management practices and the consistency of the stations' programming with American foreign policy, (d) as of 1982, the merger of the BIB and the RFE/RL Board of Directors; and (3) Presidential and Senatorial control by virtue of their appointment and confirmation powers with respect to the BIB members who in turn sit as members of the RFE/RL, Inc. Board.

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770 F.2d 1121 *; 1985 U.S. App. LEXIS 21249 **; 248 U.S. App. D.C. 208; 38 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 1073; 37 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P35,490

MAX RALIS, Appellant v. RFE/RL, INC.

Prior History:  [**1]   Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (Civil Action No. 83-01474).

CORE TERMS

retroactive, retirement, broadcast, Radio, funding, entity, district court, regulation, cases, rights, age discrimination, manifest injustice, parties, controlled corporation, obligations, stations, applicability, retrospective, day-to-day, employees, terms, foreign country, anti-discrimination, desegregation, programming, workplaces

Business & Corporate Compliance, Discrimination, Age Discrimination, Federal & State Interrelationships, Governments, Legislation, Types of Statutes, Labor & Employment Law, Scope & Definitions, General Overview, Covered Employees, Defenses, Interpretation, Effect & Operation, Prospective Operation, Retrospective Operation