Yellow Freight Syst. v. Donnelly
494 U.S. 820 (1990)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Yellow Freight Syst. v. Donnelly, 494 U.S. 820 (1990)

Yellow Freight System, Inc. v. Donnelly

No. 89-431

Argued Feb. 28, 1990

Decided April 17, 1990

494 U.S. 820




After respondent filed a charge against petitioner alleging employment discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued her a Notice of Right to Sue, which did not identify the forum in which she might sue, but did advise her that she must bring suit within 90 days. Within that period, she filed a complaint in an Illinois county court, alleging that petitioner had discriminated against her on the basis of her sex in violation of the State Human Rights Act. After petitioner filed a motion to dismiss -- and outside the 90-day period -- respondent moved to amend her complaint to allege that the facts already pleaded also constituted a violation of Title VII. Petitioner removed the case to the Federal District Court and moved to dismiss, contending that, because the state court lacked jurisdiction over a Title VII claim, the original filing in state court could not toll the 90-day period. The District Court rejected this contention and, after a trial on the merits, entered judgment for respondent which the Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held: Federal courts do not have exclusive jurisdiction over Title VII actions. The fact that Title VII contains no language that expressly confines jurisdiction to federal courts or ousts state courts of their jurisdiction is strong evidence that Congress did not intend to divest state courts of concurrent jurisdiction. Although most legislators, judges, and administrators who have been involved in the enactment and interpretation of Title VII may have expected that such litigation would be processed exclusively in federal courts, such anticipation cannot overcome the presumption, recently reaffirmed in Tafflin v. Levitt,493 U. S. 455, that state courts have the inherent authority, and are competent, to adjudicate federal claims. Pp. 494 U. S. 823-826.

874 F.2d 402 (C.A.7 1989), affirmed.

STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Page 494 U. S. 821

Justice STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question presented is whether federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction over civil actions brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 78 Stat. 253, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (1982 ed.). We recently answered a similar question involving the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961-1968. Tafflin v. Levitt,493 U. S. 455 (1990). For essentially the reasons set forth in that opinion, we conclude that Congress did not divest the state courts of their concurrent authority to adjudicate federal claims.


Respondent is a qualified dock worker. Shortly after moving to Chicago Ridge, Illinois, in 1982, she applied for work at petitioner's facility four blocks from her home. The company had no vacancies, but assured respondent that she would be the first person hired when the situation changed. Petitioner maintained this position in response to respondent's inquiries over the next 1 1/2 years, while it in fact was hiring a number of men. Respondent was hired only after she filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 1984.

On March 15, 1985, the EEOC issued a Notice of Right to Sue. The notice did not identify the forum in which respondent might sue, but it did advise her that she "must do so within ninety (90) days" or that right would be lost. Plaintiff's Exh. B, App. 14. Within the 90-day period, on May 22, 1985, respondent filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, alleging that petitioner had discriminated

Page 494 U. S. 822

against her on the basis of her sex in violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act. Ill.Rev.Stat., ch. 68,

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