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Davis v. Calgon Corp.

UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT


June 10, 1980

LAWRENCE E. DAVIS, APPELLANT
v.
CALGON CORPORATION, A CORPORATION

ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA (D.C.Civ. No. 79-0692)

Author: Seitz

Before: SEITZ, Chief Judge , and WEIS and HIGGINBOTHAM, Circuit Judges

SEITZ, Chief Judge .

Plaintiff Lawrence E. Davis appeals from a final order of the district court that granted defendant Calgon Corporation's motion to dismiss. The district court dismissed plaintiff's age discrimination complaint because it found that plaintiff had not satisfied the preconditions to suit specified in the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 et seq . (1976) (ADEA).

I.

Plaintiff's complaint alleges that plaintiff was employed as an executive by defendant from 1967 until his employment was terminated on June 30, 1978, at age 55. Plaintiff asserts that his discharge violated the ADEA*fn1 because it was done in furtherance of a general corporate policy adopted by defendant of demoting and terminating its executives solely on account of age and replacing them with individuals under the age of 40.

On January 29, 1979, 213 days after his discharge, plaintiff filed a complaint alleging age discrimination with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (the PHRC). Ten days later, he filed a charge with the Secretary of Labor (the Secretary). After receiving notice from the PHRC that it had terminated state proceedings and from the Secretary that he had concluded conciliation efforts, plaintiff filed suit in the district court.

Defendant moved to dismiss plaintiff's complaint on the ground that plaintiff had not filed his charge with the Secretary within the time limits prescribed in the ADEA, 29 U.S.C.A. § 626(d) (West 1979 Supp.). Section 626(d) provides that such a charge shall be filed:

(1) within 180 days after the alleged unlawful practice occurred; or

(2) in a case to which section 633(b) of the title applies, within 300 days after the alleged unlawful practice occurred, or within 30 days after receipt by the individual of notice of termination of proceedings under State law, whichever is earlier.

Section 633(b), which deals with the relationship between federal and state age discrimination actions, applies to ADEA claims based on alleged unlawful practices occurring in "deferral states." These are states having a law prohibiting age discrimintion in employment and establishing a state authority to grant or seek relief from such discrimination.

Plaintiff filed both his state and federal claims after 180 days but before 300 days. Because Pennsylvania is a deferral state, see Bonham v. Dresser Industries, Inc ., 569 F.2d 187, 194 (3d Cir. 1977), cert. denied , 439 U.S. 821 (1978); Pa. Stat. Ann. tit. 43, §§ 955-957 (Purdon 1964 & 1979 Supp.), plaintiff argues that he is entitled to the 300-day period specified in § 626(d)(2) and that therefore his charge of age discimination was timely filed with the Secretary.The district court disagreed, finding that the 300-day filing period was available only where "timely invocation of the State remedy occurred." The court found that plaintiff's filing with the PHRC was not timely and that a 180-day period for filing with the Secretary applied in this case. Therefore, it concluded that plaintiff's failure to file a charge with the Secretary within 180 days precluded this suit.

II.

The basis of the district court's conclusion that plaintiff's filing with the PHRC was not timely is unclear. The court may have found the filing untimely either because plaintiff did not file with the PHRC within the 90-day state statute of limitations, see Pa. Stat. Ann. tit. 43, § 959 nPurdon 1979 Supp.), or because he did not make the state filing within 180 days. We are unable to determine which of these time limits was relied upon by the district court. Therefore, we must consider both of them to determine whether the district court's decision to dismiss plaintiff's complaint was correct.

A.

In Oscar Mayer & Co. v. Evans , 441 U.S. 750 (1979), the Supreme Court held that although the ADEA makes resort to state procedures mandatory for claims arising in deferral states, a plaintiff is not required to commence the state proceedings within the time limits set by state law to preserve his federal remedy. The Court stated that "state procedural defaults cannot foreclose federal relief and that state limitations periods cannot govern the efficacy of the federal remedy." Id . at 762. Therefore, plaintiff's failure here to comply with the state statute of limitations cannot bar his ADEA suit and cannot support the district court's decision.

B.

Defendant argues, however, that the extended period for filing a charge with the Secretary provided in § 626(d)(2) applies only when a plaintiff files with the state within the shorter federal period of 180 days and that the district court based its decision on plaintiff's failure to file with the state within this period. Thus, defendant contends that the district court properly granted its motion to dismiss because plaintiff did not file with the PHRC until more than 180 days after his discharge and, consequently, that plaintiff was not entitled to 300 days to file with the Secretary.

This issue did not arise in Evans and was not addressed by the Court because the plaintiff there had filed his federal charge within 180 days after the alleged discrimination. Thus, we must decide whether a deferral state plaintiff who has not filed a complaint with the appropriate state agency within 180 days after the alleged unlawful practice nevertheless is entitled to the extended period provided by § 626(d)(2) to file a charge with the Secretary.*fn2

Initially, we note that the parties have cited nothing in the legislative history of the ADEA and our research has revealed nothing in that history that is helpful to the resolution of this issue. Plaintiff relies on the statutory language of § 626(d)(2) and argues that the plain terms of that subsection give deferral state plaintiffs 300 days to file a charge with the Secretary regardless of when a state administrative complaint is filed.

A reading of only te isolated language of § 626(d)(2) (quoted above) lends some support to the plaintiff's theory. However, it is

fundamental that a section of a statute should not be read in isolation from the context of the whole Act, and that in fulfilling our responsibility in interpreting legislation, "we must not be guided by a single sentence or a member of a sentence, but [should] look to the provisions of the whole law, and to its object and policy."

Richards v. United States , 369 U.S. 1, 11 (1962) (footnotes omitted) (quoting Mastro Plastics Corp v. NLRB , 350 U.S. 270, 285 (1956)). See Kokoszka v. Belford , 417 U.S. 642, 650 (1974). Thus, we must consider the extended filing period provided by § 626(d)(2) in light of the overall structure and purposes of the ADEA.

Section 633(b) provides that in cases occurring in deferral states, no suit may be brought under § 626 until 60 days after proceedings have been commenced under state law, unless state proceedings have terminated earlier. This section evidences a congressional intent to encourage settlement of age discrimination claims at the state level prior to federal court litigation. See Oscar Mayer & Co. v. Evans , 441 U.S. 750, 756 (1979); Ewald v. Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co ., No. 77-1600, slip op. at 2 (6th Cir. May 9, 1980).

This same purpose is evident in § 626(d). Section 626(d)(1) gives plaintiffs in non-deferral states 180 days to file a charge with the Secretary. By contrast, in cases to which § 633(b) applies, § 626(d)(2) allows a deferral state plaintiff to file with the Secretary within either 300 days or 30 days after he has received notice of termination of state proceedings, whichever occurs earlier. Given Congress's intent to encourage the resolution of age discrimination claims in state proceedings, it is apparent that the purpose underlying the extended filing period of § 626(d)(2) is to give deferral state plaintiffs an additional period in which to pursue state remedies before being required to file a charge with the Secretary.

This purpose is not furthered by giving a deferral state plaintiff extra time to file his charge with the Secretary when he does not commence state proceedings. Furthermore, the rule that plaintiff asks us to adopt in this case would create an obvious inequity in the treatment of deferral and non-deferral state plaintiffs because it would give a deferral state plaintiff up to 120 days longer than a non-deferral state plaintiff to file an identical claim, even when the deferral state plaintiff has not tried to initiate state proceedings. We cannot ascribe to Congress an intent to arbitrarily allow one individual 300 days to file a charge because of the fortuitous circumstance that his claim arose in a deferral state when another individual in a non-deferral state must file the same charge within 180 days after the alleged discrimination. Rather, we conclude from the structure of the ADEA and its policy favoring settlement of age discrimination complaints in state proceedings that Congress intended that a deferral state plaintiff be entitled to the extended filing period of § 626(d)(2) only if he filed a charge with the state within 180 days after the alleged discriminatory conduct.*fn3

This construction of the statute imposes on both deferral and non-deferral state plaintiffs the same basic time limit for preserving their federal remedy. The non-deferral state plaintiff must file a charge with the Secretary within 180 days. A deferral state plaintiff may file either with the Secretary or the appropriate state agency within this same period. If he chooses to file with the state within 180 days, then he may take advantage of the additional time for filing with the Secretary provided in § 626(d)(2).

Plaintiff points out that the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has rejected the construction of § 626(d) that we accept in this case. See Bean v. Crocker National Bank, 600 F.2d 754 (9th Cir. 1979). However, since this appeal was filed, two other courts of appeals have decided this issue and have followed the interpretation we adopt today. See Ewald v. Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., No. 77-1600 (6th Cir. May 9, 1980); Ciccone v. Textron, Inc., No. 79-1541 (1st Cir. March 17, 1980). Moreover, we have recognized that interpretations of similar language in Title VII can provide guidance for interpretation of the ADEA, see Ricks v. Delaware State College, 605 F.2d 710, 712 (3d Cir. 1979), cert. granted, 100 S. Ct. 1012 (1980), and several courts have construed similar Title VII time limits for filing claims with the EEOC in this fashion. See, e.g., Olson v. Rembrandt Printing Co ., 511 F.2d 1228 (8th Cir. 1975) (in banc); Wiltshire v. Standard Oil Co ., 447 F. Supp. 756 (N.D. Cal. 1977). But see Doski v. M. Goldseker Co., 539 F.2d 1326 (4th Cir. 1976). While the issue is not free from doubt, we agree with the reasoning of Ewald, Ciccone, and Olson .

C.

We recognize that the ADEA is remedial and humanitarian legislation that should be liberally construed to avoid the creation of procedural technicalities, especially where laymen, unassisted by trained counsel, often initiate the process. See Oscar Mayer & Co. v. Evans, 441 U.S. 750, 761 (1979). However, our holding does not create undue procedural obstacles for victims of age discrimination. As noted above, our construction of the statute merely places the same duty on deferral and non-deferral state plaintiffs to protect their federal remedy.

Moreover, we have held that the time limits imposed by § 626(d) are not strictly jurisdictional but instead are in the nature of statutes of limitations and therefore subject to possible tolling and estoppel in proper cases. Bonham v. Dresser Industries, Inc., 569 F.2d 187, 192-93 (3d Cir. 1977), cert. denied, 439 U.S. 821 (1978). This provides additional protection to the layman who seeks to remedy an age discrimination claim.

III.

In sum, because the plaintiff did not file a complaint with the PHRC within 180 days after his discharge, he was not entitled to the extended 300-day period to file a charge with the Secretary. Therefore, his charge, which was filed 223 days after his discharge, was not timely, and the district court properly dismissed his complaint.

Accordingly, the order of the district court will be affirmed.


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