Oscar Mayer & Company v. Evans

PETITIONER: Oscar Mayer & Company
RESPONDENT: Evans
LOCATION: John G. Osborne Elementary School

DOCKET NO.: 78-275
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

CITATION: 441 US 750 (1979)
ARGUED: Feb 28, 1979
DECIDED: May 21, 1979

ADVOCATES:
Allan Ryan, Jr. -
James W. Gladden, Jr. - for petitioners
Mark W. Bennett - for respondent

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Oscar Mayer & Company v. Evans

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 28, 1979 in Oscar Mayer & Company v. Evans

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments next in Oscar Mayer & Co against Evans.

Mr. Gladden I think you may proceed whenever you are ready.

James W. Gladden, Jr.:

Thank you Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court.

The issue presented in this case is whether under Section 14(b) of the Age Discrimination and Employment Act, when a state has a law which prohibits age discrimination and employment and has established an agency and power to grant relief from such practices, must a claim of age discrimination first be filed with that state agency before the claimant may initiate an action in Federal Court.

The facts of this case maybe stated very briefly.

Respondent Joseph Evans retired in January 1976 from his position as hog buyer for Oscar Mayer in Iowa.

In March, 1976, Mr. Evans filed a notice of intent to sue with the United States Department of Labor claiming that he had been forced to retire in violation of the Age Discrimination Act.

At the time of Mr. Evans alleged forced retirement, the Iowa Civil Rights Act prohibited age discrimination in employment and established the Iowa Civil Rights Commission to investigate an attempt to conciliate all charges of age discrimination.

In addition, the Iowa Civil Rights Commission was empowered, if it was unable to settle a charge through conciliation, to hold hearings and if it found that a discriminatory practice had been engaged in to order cease and desist and award back pay.

Mr. Evans ignored the available avenue of state relief.

He did not a file a claim at any time with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.

Rather one year after he had filed his notice of intent to sue with the United States Department of Labor, he instituted an action in the Federal District Court in Iowa.

The defendants in that action and petitioners here are the company Oscar Mayer and four of its management employees who were involved in the decision with respect to his retirement.

Oscar Mayer and the other defendants in the trial court below move to dismiss the action for the reason that Mr. Evans had failed to file a claim with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission as Oscar Mayer contended was required by Section 14(b) of the Age Discrimination Act.

Section 14(b) requires and it is found in page 2 of our brief and I quote “In the case of an alleged unlawful practice occurring in a state, which has a law prohibiting discrimination in employment because of age and establishing or authorizing a state authority to grant or seek relief from such discriminatory practice, no suit maybe brought under Section 626 of this title before the expiration of 60 days after proceedings have been commenced under the State Law unless such proceedings have been earlier terminated.”

In the trial court in response to the motion to dismiss, respondent conceded that Iowa has an age discrimination law and that it has established an agency and is therefore within the terms of Section 14(b).

Respondent also conceded that he at no time filed a charge with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.

The trial judge however denied the motion to dismiss, holding the filing of a charge with the state agency was not required by Section 14(b) as a prerequisite to instituting action in the Federal District Court.

Rather he concluded that Section 14(b) gave an age claimant the option of determining whether or not to avail himself of an available state remedy.

Trial judge certified his order and the appeal was taken to the Eighth Circuit under Section 1292(b).

In its first decision, the Eighth Circuit reversed the trial court and held that Section 14(b) did require prior resort to the state agency.

On rehearing, the Eighth Circuit changed its position and by divided panel concluded that while the issue was not free from doubt, the preferable view was that Section 14(b) gave an age claimant the option that he was not required to file with the state agency.

Harry A. Blackmun:

This would not by -- just because one of the judges changes his mind --

James W. Gladden, Jr.:

One judge changed his mind on the petition, after the petition for rehearing was filed; there was not an En Banc here.

It is petitioner's position that Section 14(b) establishes a prerequisite with -- which must be complied with prior to instituting action in Federal District Court.

It is our position that the language of the statute is clear and further that requiring resort to an available state remedy is completely consistent for the purposes of the Age Discrimination Act.

As I just read the language to you, it specifically says where a state has a law and an agency to enforce that law, no suit maybe brought under Section 626 of this title before the expiration of 60 days after proceedings have been commenced under the state law.

John Paul Stevens:

Mr. Gladden it doesn't say that proceedings must be commenced under the state law now, does it?

James W. Gladden, Jr.:

It does not say it must be commenced, but it says no suit maybe brought and I think if you will look at Section 7(b), which deals with filing an action in Federal Court, it says no suit maybe commenced until notice is given to the Department of Labor.

That particular provision using the same language “no suit maybe commenced” is uniformly accepted by the courts as requiring the filing of notice of intent to suit.