Electrical Workers v. Robbins & Myers, Inc.
Annotate this Case
429 U.S. 229 (1976)
U.S. Supreme Court
Electrical Workers v. Robbins & Myers, Inc., 429 U.S. 229 (1976)
International Union of Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers,
AFL-CIO, Local 790 v. Robbins & Myers, Inc.
Argued November 9, 1976
Decided December 20, 1976
429 U.S. 229
Two days after her discharge by respondent company, petitioner Guy, a Negro, 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 under those procedures had denied the grievance, but 108 days after the discharge, petitioner Guy 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 Guy then brought this suit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in the District Court, which thereafter dismissed the suit on the ground that Guy 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 Guy'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 provides that the amendments
"shall be applicable with respect to charges pending with the Commission on the date of the enactment of this 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.
1. Petitioners' contention, raised explicitly for the first time in this Court, that the date of the conclusion of the grievance procedures, not the date of the discharge, was the "final" date of "the alleged unlawful practice," is without merit as being contrary to the understanding of the parties themselves in the courts below. Pp. 429 U. S. 234-235.
2. The existence and utilization of grievance procedures does not toll the running of the limitations period that would otherwise begin on the date of the firing, Title VII remedies being independent of other preexisting remedies available to an aggrieved employee. Alexander v. Gardner-Denver Co., 415 U. S. 36; Johnson v. Railway Express Agency, 421 U. S. 454. Pp. 429 U. S. 236-240.
(a) Petitioner Guy, by pursuing the grievance procedures, was asserting an independent claim based on a contract right, and was in no way thereby prevented from filing her charge with the EEOC within 90 days of her discharge. Application of equitable principles to toll the 90-day period pending completion of the grievance procedures is therefore inappropriate here. Burnett v. New York Central R. Co., 380 U. S. 424, distinguished. Pp. 429 U. S. 237-238.
(b) Congress clearly intended to retain other remedies "against private employment discrimination separate from and independent of the more elaborate and time-consuming procedures of Title VII," Johnson v. Railway Express Co., supra at 421 U. S. 465-466. Pp. 429 U. S. 239-240.
3. The 1972 amendments and their legislative history demonstrate that Congress intended to apply the 180-day period to a charge such as that filed by Guy where the charge was filed with the EEOC before these amendments became effective, was still pending when the amendments became effective, and alleged a discriminatory occurrence within 180 days on the enactment of the amendment. Pp. 429 U. S. 241-243.
4. Lifting the bar of a statute of limitations so as to restore a remedy lost through mere lapse of time is not per se unconstitutional. Cf. Chase Securities Corp. v. Donaldson, 325 U. S. 304, 325 U. S. 311-312. Pp. 429 U. S. 243-244.
525 F.2d 124, reversed and remanded.
REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, BLACKMUN, and POWELL, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, STEWART, MARSHALL, and STEVENS, JJ., post, p. 429 U. S. 244, filed a separate statement.