with the EEOC. Two new charges were filed on April 18, 1980, and July 28, 1980 respectively. Both of these subsequent charges were given the charge number 034-800718. Both of these subsequent charges were filed beyond the expiration of the 180 day time limitations. Then, on September 30, 1980 the EEOC sent plaintiff a letter dismissing charge number 034-800718 for being untimely filed, together with a Notice of Right to Sue. The letter of dismissal only makes mention of the charge number, but gives no indication whether it refers to all three of the specific charges filed on different dates or only one of them.
In light of the obvious confusion surrounding the handling of plaintiff's case by the EEOC we find that plaintiff should not be barred from her Title VII action for failure to file a timely charge with the EEOC. As we earlier found, the March 13, 1980 transmittal form which states that the EEOC received plaintiff's charge on June 30, 1978 is a dispositive statement. If this is true, the subsequent dismissal by the EEOC for failure to timely file was improper.
Even if the March 13, 1980 transmittal form were not dispositive as to the date of filing, we feel that the facts of this case show that the handling of plaintiff's charge represents, at the very least, bureaucratic confusion. Plaintiffs are not to be barred from a Title VII action due to possible error, neglect, or mishandling or a charge by the EEOC. Courts are to interpret the requirements for maintenance of a Title VII action in a non-technical fashion so as not to bar an individual's access to the court by procedural technicalities. Ostapowicz v. Johnson Barge Co., 541 F.2d 394, 398 (3d Cir. 1976); McAdams v. Thermal Industries, Inc., 428 F. Supp. 156, 161 (W.D.Pa.1977).
Defendant contends that the liberality of interpretation should not apply in this case because the plaintiff was represented by counsel at the time. But the facts show that plaintiff and her attorney made several communications regarding this matter, but the confusion continued on the part of both parties. The conflicts in dates in the EEOC documents themselves show that the plaintiff could not have been the only mistaken party here. Furthermore, the facts indicate that plaintiff did make efforts through the EEOC to pursue her case from an early date. She did not sit on her rights and then belatedly file charges. Under these circumstances, we find that plaintiff's Title VII claim is not barred for failure to file a timely charge with the EEOC, and summary judgment on this issue will be denied.
In her complaint, plaintiff has also claimed violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, 29 U.S.C. §§ 206-216, specifically the Federal Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d). The statute of limitations applicable to these claims is found at 29 U.S.C. § 255(a). This provides that all actions must be commenced "within two years after the cause of action accrued .... except that a cause of action arising out of a willful violation may be commenced within three years after the cause of action accrued." Defendant moves for partial summary judgment as to these FLSA claims as barred by this statute of limitations.
If the violation is not a willful one, then the two year statute applies and plaintiff's cause of action is barred. But whether or not there has been a willful violation of the FLSA is a question of fact to be determined from the evidence. Therefore, the court cannot proceed summarily on this issue.
The defendant also contends that even if the three year statute of limitations on the FLSA claim applies, plaintiff is barred from recovery for claims that accrued prior to December 29, 1977, the three year period prior to the filing of her complaint. The applicable statute of limitations does act as a limitations on damages and plaintiff can only recover the claims that accrued during the three years prior to the filing of this suit. Hodgson v. Behrens Drug Co., 475 F.2d 1041, 1050 (5th Cir. 1973), cert. denied, 414 U.S. 822, 94 S. Ct. 121, 38 L. Ed. 2d 55 (1973); Cap v. Lehigh University, 433 F. Supp. 1275, 1283 (E.D.Pa.1977). Therefore, if the court finds at trial that there was a willful violation of the Equal Pay Act, plaintiff's recovery is limited to violations occurring subsequent to December 29, 1977. Under either statute of limitations, however, plaintiff's Equal Pay Act claim alleging inequality of treatment regarding sick benefits in 1975 is time-barred.
Finally, defendant's motion for partial summary judgment contains a claim that this case should be barred by the doctrine of laches. They allege that the last act of discrimination occurred in March of 1978 and that plaintiff took no administrative or legal action until April of 1980. Laches is an improper defense to be raised in a motion for summary judgment since it necessarily involves question of fact. Furthermore, the facts of this case clearly belie this contention and summary judgment on this ground will be denied.
Therefore, defendant's motion for partial summary judgment is denied, except that all FLSA causes of action arising prior to December 29, 1977 are time-barred, specifically plaintiff's claim for unequal sick leave benefits in 1975. The case will proceed in accordance with the foregoing, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d).
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