Mohasco Corporation v. Silver

PETITIONER: Mohasco Corporation
LOCATION: E.L. Aaron & Co., Inc.

DOCKET NO.: 79-616
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 447 US 807 (1980)
ARGUED: Mar 25, 1980
DECIDED: Jun 23, 1980

Edwin S. Kneedler - as amici curiae
Judith P. Vladeck - on behalf of Respondent
Thomas Mead Santoro - on behalf of the Petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for Mohasco Corporation v. Silver

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 25, 1980 (Part 2) in Mohasco Corporation v. Silver

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 25, 1980 (Part 1) in Mohasco Corporation v. Silver

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear argument next in 79-616, Mohasco Corporation v. Silver.

Mr. Santoro, I think you may proceed now.

Thomas Mead Santoro:

Mr Chief Justice, and may it please the Court.

The issue before the Court in this case is whether a charge of employment discrimination against the petitioner Mohasco Corporation was filed within the meaning of section 706 of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, and was the filing timely.

On June 15, 1976, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received a letter from the respondent Ralph H. Silver charging Mohasco Corporation with terminating him 291 days earlier because of his religion.

That day the EEOC deferred the charge to the New York State Division of Human Rights pursuant to section 706(c) of the act, and 55 days later, 58 days after receipt by the EEOC, Mr. Silver actually filed a charge with the New York State Division of Human Rights.

On August 20, 1976, 66 days after receipt of the charge by the EEOC, the EEOC sent a notice to the petitioner that the charge of employment discrimination had been filed.

Mohasco responded to the EEOC with an objection to its jurisdiction on the ground that Silver had failed to file a timely charge.

Ultimately, after a finding of no probable cause by the New York State Division of Human Rights, affirmed by its appeal board, and a finding of no reasonable cause by the EEOC, this action was commenced.

The District Court on the timeliness question granted the petitioner Mohasco's motion for summary judgment, holding that the charge was not timely and that the court therefore lacked subject matter jurisdiction.

The Court of Appeals on the timeliness question reversed, Judge Meskill dissenting, and held the charge timely.

Both decisions and the determination of this Court involve interpretation of section 706(c) and (e) of Title VII of the Civil Right Act of 1964, as amended.

Section 706(e) states that under the act the charge shall be filed within 180 days after an alleged unlawful employment practice occurred, except that in a case of an unlawful employment practice with respect to which the person aggrieved has initially instituted proceedings with a state agency with authority to grant or seek relief.

Such charge shall be filed within 300 days.

Section 706(c) states that in a deferral states, such as New York, no charge may be filed by the person aggrieved before the expiration of 60 days after the proceedings have been commenced under state law unless such proceedings are earlier terminated, and 706(c) also contains a deeming provision for commencement purposes under state law.

There are three interpretations of the statute being urged before this Court, two by the petitioner and one by the respondent and the government.

The first is that in a deferral state the statute requires that a charge of employment discrimination be filed with the state agency within 180 days, in which case a complainant will have 300 days to file with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The second interpretation being asserted is that in a deferral state the statute requires the charge to be filed within 300 or leas days provided deferral of an appropriate period, either 120 days or 60 days or less, as appropriate, has been completed.

And the third interpretation --

Harry A. Blackmun:

So that equates with the 140 days.

Thomas Mead Santoro:

Depending on the state you are in.

If you are in a state with an agency which is less than one year old, the deferral would necessarily be 120 days, as that is required by the statute.

If you are in a state which has an agency which is older than one year, then it would be 60 days or such lesser time if that state agency completes its proceedings in less than 60 days.

The third interpretation is that in a deferral state the statute requires the charge to be filed within 300 days and all else is irrelevant.

Now, each has received the approval of District and Circuit Courts, but we feel that the majority support the first interpretation, that in a deferral state the statute requires the charge to be filed within 180 days, and we think this can be shown by subjecting each of these three interpretations to a three-part analysis, asking first whether the interpretations comports with the language of the statute second, whether it comports and if it is even needed to resort to legislative history, the statutory purpose and intent and the third is an analysis of the results, whether they are fair and equitable, understandable or consistent and predictable.

Dealing first with the first interpretation that you must filed with a state agency within 180 days -- which, by the way, means really filing somewhere within 180 days, because if by chance one files with the EEOC, the statute mandates that the EEOC defer, so we assume that under this first interpretation the 180 days will be accomplished even if a person mistakenly goes to the EEOC first.

It comports with the statutory language.

706 (e) clearly states that a charge under the act shall be filed within 180 days except with regard to the initial instituting language.

Secondly, I don't think there is any need to resort to statutory history because, quite frankly, when the words of the statute are clear, I don't think there is any necessity to resort to legislative history.

But if you do, you find that the statute as enacted in 1964 specifically required a great deal of diligence.