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Law School Case Brief

Int'l Union of Elec. v. Robbins & Myers, Inc. - 429 U.S. 229, 97 S. Ct. 441 (1976)

Rule:

The timely filing of a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission pursuant to § 706 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not toll the running of the statute of limitations applicable to an action, based on the same facts, brought under 42 U.S.C.S. § 1981.

Facts:

Two days after her discharge by respondent company, petitioner employee Guy caused a grievance alleging "unfair action" to be filed on her behalf pursuant to procedures in a collective-bargaining agreement between her union and respondent. On February 10, 1972, 84 days after the company denied the grievance, but 108 days after the discharge, petitioner filed a charge of racial discrimination relating to her discharge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which in November 1973 concluded that race had not figured in the discharge. Petitioner then brought the present suit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in the District Court, which thereafter dismissed the suit on the ground that petitioner had not filed her charge with the EEOC within 90 days "after the alleged unlawful practice occurred," as required by § 706(d) (a period later extended to 180 days when, effective March 24, 1972, the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972 amended the limitations provision), and that petitioner's resort to the contractual grievance procedure did not extend the time in which to file the Title VII charge. Section 14 of the 1972 amendments provided that the amendments shall be applicable with respect to charges pending with the Commission on the date of the enactment of the Act and all charges filed thereafter. The Court of Appeals, which affirmed, also concluded that the extension of 180 days could not "revive" a claim that was "barred and extinguished" before the extension's effective date. Petitioner sought review, contending that her claim against respondent employer under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was not time barred.

Issue:

Was a petitioner’s claim of racial discrimination against respondent employer time barred, even though she had filed a grievance with the EEOC within the required time period?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The Supreme Court of the United States granted certiorari to resolve an apparent Circuit conflict on two of these issues: tolling during the pendency of a collective-bargaining-contract's grievance mechanism, and the applicability of the 1972 amendments to charges filed more than 90 days from the date of the alleged discriminatory act but less than 180 days before the time the amendments became effective. The Court reversed the dismissal of the claim. The Court found that petitioner filed her claim after the 90-day time limit in 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000e-5(d) effective at the time of her discharge, but within the amended 180-day time limit of § 2000e-5(e) effective after the date of discharge. Furthermore, the Court determined that petitioner’s discharge was effective on the date of termination and not as of the subsequent arbitration decision. Because the Title VII action was independent of any other action, the Court concluded that it was not tolled by the filing of a grievance under the collective bargaining agreement. The Court determined, however, that employee's claim was not time barred because the amended 180-day time limit applied to charges filed before the effective date of the new time limit and occurring within 180 days of the enactment of the amendments.

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