454 U.S. 1060 (1981)

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U.S. Supreme Court

KAMBEROS v. GTE AUTOMATIC ELEC., INC. , 454 U.S. 1060 (1981)

454 U.S. 1060

Constance KAMBEROS
No. 81-480

Supreme Court of the United States

November 16, 1981

On petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

The petition for writ of certiorari is denied.

Justice WHITE, with whom Justice BRENNAN and Justice MARSHALL join, dissenting.

In this Title VII case, the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit substantially reduced an award of backpay because the petitioner did not seek a right-to-sue letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission while the Commission was attempting to resolve the grievance through conciliation. The decision conflicts directly with the position of the Fifth Circuit, indirectly with that of the Ninth Circuit, possibly misreads this Court's decisions, and definitely leaves Title VII plaintiffs confused as to their responsibilities under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I would grant certiorari to resolve the conflict and, it is hoped, to clarify the situation.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, 86 Stat. 103, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq. , establishes procedures by which aggrieved parties may seek relief from unlawful discrimination. The Act provides that charges first be

Page 454 U.S. 1060 , 1061

brought to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission within 180 days of the alleged violation. 2000e-5(e). If the Commission dismisses the charge or issues a right-to-sue letter, the party may bring an action in federal court within 90 days. 2000e-5(f)(1)(A). Regulations under the Act provide that after 180 days from the filing of a complaint with the Commission, a person can request a right-to-sue notice which "the Commission shall promptly issue." 29 CFR 1601.28(a) (1980). Nothing in the Act or its accompanying regulations requires that such a request be made within a certain time, or, for that matter, that it be made at all.

The petitioner, a lawyer, was refused employment by respondent because, as she was told in just so many words, the company was looking for a man. That same day petitioner filed her complaint with the Commission. Although petitioner could have requested a right-to-sue letter 180 days later, she waited for over four years while the Commission pursued the grievance through conciliation. That process apparently was unsuccessful and, on January 3, 1974, a right-to-sue letter was issued. Fifteen days later, petitioner filed suit in Federal District Court, which upheld her claim and awarded various prospective relief as well as backpay of over $100,000 dating from the filing of charges in 1969. The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit agreed that the respondent was liable for sex discrimination, but objected to the backpay award because the petitioner allowed her complaint to "lie dormant" with the Commission for over four years when she could have obtained a right-to-sue letter upon request. The District Court was directed, on remand, to reduce the backpay award for the time during which petitioner could have requested a right-to-sue letter from the Commission. 603 F.2d 598, 603.

The Fifth Circuit has expressly declined to rule that Title VII plaintiffs must make a timely request for a right-to-sue letter or lose the right to substantial backpay relief. In two [454 U.S. 1060 , 1062]

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