Procedure whereby the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(EEOC), after having received a written charge from a complainant
of discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
of 1964, orally referred it to the appropriate state agency, waited
until that agency had terminated its jurisdiction, and then
formally filed the charge on behalf of the complainant without
having obtained an additional written charge within 30 days of the
termination of the state proceedings held
to satisfy the
requirements of §§ 706(b) and (d) of the Act, which have the
purpose of affording state agencies prior opportunity to consider
discrimination complaints and ensuring their prompt filing and
disposition by the EEOC on exhaustion of the state remedy. Pp.
404 U. S.
430 F.2d 49, reversed.
STEWART, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all
members joined except POWELL and REHNQUIST, JJ., who took no part
in the consideration or decision of the cases.
Page 404 U. S. 523
MR. JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.
A person claiming to be aggrieved by a violation of Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 78 Stat. 253, [Footnote 1
] may not maintain a suit for redress in
federal district court until he has first unsuccessfully pursued
certain avenues of potential administrative relief. In this
litigation, the petitioner employee filed a complaint in the United
States District Court for the District of Colorado, alleging that
his employer, the respondent Pullman Company, had engaged in
employment practices violative of Title VII. The court dismissed
the complaint, holding that the statutory prerequisites to the
maintenance of the suit had not been met. The Court of Appeals
affirmed, 430 F.2d 49, and we granted certiorari to consider the
question of federal law presented. 401 U.S. 907.
The petitioner was employed by the Pullman Company as a
"porter-in-charge." In 1963 and again in 1965, he complained to the
Colorado Civil Rights Commission, alleging that the
porters-in-charge, most of whom, like the petitioner, were Negroes,
performed the same functions as conductors, most of whom were
white, yet at lower pay. The proceedings of the Colorado Commission
terminated in 1965 without reaching a resolution of the controversy
satisfactory to the petitioner. On May 23, 1966, the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission received from the petitioner a
"letter of inquiry" which complained of this same alleged
Page 404 U. S. 524
In accord with its usual practice, [Footnote 2
] the Commission treated this letter as a
complaint, but did not formally file it. Instead, to insure
compliance with Title VII's procedural requirements, EEOC orally
advised the Colorado Commission that it had received a complaint
from the petitioner. By letter of June 1, 1966, the Colorado
Commission informed EEOC that it waived the opportunity to take
further action on the petitioner's grievance, and the EEOC then
proceeded with its own investigation. The investigation resulted in
a finding of probable cause to believe that the charge of
discrimination was true, but the EEOC was unsuccessful in its
attempts to obtain Pullman's voluntary compliance. T his lawsuit
The basis for the holding of the Court of Appeals was its
finding that the charge of discrimination had not been "filed" with
EEOC by the petitioner in conformity with the requirements of the
Act. [Footnote 3
] Two such
requirements are critical here. Section 706(b) of the Act, 42
U.S.C. § 2000e-5(b), provides that, where there exists a state or
local agency authorized to grant or seek relief against
Page 404 U. S. 525
"no charge may be filed [with the EEOC] by the person aggrieved
before the expiration of sixty days after proceedings have been
commenced under the State or local law, unless such proceedings
have been earlier terminated. . . ."
Section 706(d), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(d), requires that the
complaint to the EEOC
"shall be filed by the person aggrieved within two hundred and
ten days after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred,
or within thirty days after receiving notice that the State or
local agency has terminated the proceedings under the State or
local law, whichever is earlier. . . ."
The EEOC takes the position that these requirements were
fulfilled by the procedure followed here, whereby a charge filed
with the EEOC prior to exhaustion of the state remedy was referred
by it to the state agency, and then formally filed once the state
agency indicated that it would decline to take action. The Court of
Appeals, on the other hand, regarded this procedure as a
"manipulation of the filing date," not contemplated or permitted by
the statute or by the EEOC regulations then in force.
We hold that the filing procedure followed here fully complied
with the intent of the Act, and we thus reverse the judgment of the
Court of Appeals. Nothing in the Act suggests that the state
proceedings may not be initiated by the EEOC acting on behalf of
the complainant, rather than by the complainant himself, nor is
there any requirement that the complaint to the state agency be
made in writing, rather than by oral referral. [Footnote 4
Page 404 U. S. 526
Further, we cannot agree with the respondent's claim that the
EEOC may not properly hold a complaint in "suspended animation,"
automatically filing it upon termination of the state proceedings.
We see no reason why further action by the aggrieved party
should be required. The procedure complies with the purpose both of
§ 706(b), to give state agencies a prior opportunity to consider
discrimination complaints, and of § 706(d), to ensure expedition in
the filing and handling of those complaints. The respondent makes
no showing of prejudice to its interests. To require a second
"filing" by the aggrieved party after termination of state
proceedings would serve no purpose other than the creation of an
additional procedural technicality. [Footnote 6
Page 404 U. S. 527
Such technicalities are particularly inappropriate in a
statutory scheme in which laymen, unassisted by trained lawyers,
initiate the process.
The judgment is
MR. JUSTICE POWELL and MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST took no part in the
consideration or decision of these cases.
§§ 701-716(c), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e to 2000e-15.
Title 29 CFR § 1601.11(b) (1971) provides:
"[A] charge is deemed filed when the Commission receives from
the person aggrieved a written statement sufficiently precise to
identify the parties and to describe generally the action or
practices complained of. . . ."
The Court of Appeals first adopted the reasoning of the District
Court: the state commission had terminated the proceedings
initiated by petitioner in July, 1965, and petitioner failed to
complain to the EEOC within the 30-day time period prescribed in §
706(d), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(d). Regarding this statutory time
requirement as jurisdictional, the District Court dismissed the
complaint. When the Government entered the case on a petition for
rehearing to the Court of Appeals, it pointed out that Title VII
had not gone into effect at the time of the events underlying
petitioner's applications to the state commission. Thus, the state
commission's termination of proceedings in 1965 did not toll the
30-day period for appeal to the EEOC.
Respondent cites the following language of § 706(b), 42 U.S.C. §
"If any requirement for the commencement of such proceedings is
imposed by a State or local authority other than a requirement of
the filing of a written and signed statement of the facts upon
which the proceeding is based, the proceeding shall be deemed to
have been commenced for the purposes of this subsection at the time
such statement is sent by registered mail to the appropriate State
or local authority."
Nothing in this language implies that a state proceeding may not
be commenced by an oral complaint; the statute guards against state
proceedings that are difficult to commence, not against ones that
are easily begun.
The Court of Appeals expressed concern that, if EEOC could
ignore the requirement of 29 CFR § 1601.11(b) (1971) that a charge
is deemed filed when received, it could file any complaint whenever
it chose, thereby nullifying the various statutory time
requirements. But the statutory prohibition of § 706(b) against
filing charges that have not been referred to a state or local
authority necessarily creates an exception to the regulation
requiring filing on receipt.
Comment, A Look at Love v. Pullman,
U.Chi.L.Rev. 181, 188 (1969). When a member of EEOC, rather than an
aggrieved party, files a complaint with EEOC,
"the Commission shall, before taking any action with respect to
such charge, notify the appropriate State or local officials and,
upon request, afford them a reasonable time, but not less than
sixty days . . . to remedy the practice alleged."
Title VII, § 706(c), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(c). It is clear that
Congress found nothing wrong, in this circumstance, with EEOC's
holding the charge in abeyance until a state agency is given the
chance to act. There is no reason to think that Congress would
disapprove this procedure when complaints are initiated by
aggrieved parties; the difference in wording between § 706(b) and §
706(c) seems to be only a reflection of the different persons who
initiate the charge. Developments in the Law, Employment
Discrimination and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 84
Harv.L.Rev. 1109, 1214 n. 117 (1971).