MOHASCO CORP. V. SILVER, 447 U. S. 807 (1980)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Mohasco Corp. v. Silver, 447 U.S. 807 (1980)

Mohasco Corp. v. Silver

No. 79-616

Argued March 25, 1980

Decided June 23, 1980

447 U.S. 807


Section 706(c) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Act) provides that, in the case of an alleged unlawful employment practice occurring in a State having a law prohibiting such practices, no charge may be "filed" with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) before the expiration of 60 days after proceedings have been commenced in the appropriate state agency unless such proceedings have been earlier terminated. Section 706(e) requires that an unlawful employment practice charge be "filed" in such a State within 300 days after the alleged practice occurred or within 30 days after the aggrieved person receives notice that the state agency has terminated its proceedings, whichever is earlier. Petitioner employer discharged respondent employee on August 29, 1975. On June 15, 1976 -- 291 days later -- the EEOC received a letter from respondent claiming that petitioner had discriminated against him because of his religion, and this letter was promptly referred to the appropriate New York agency, which, in due course, determined that there was no merit to the charge. Meanwhile, on August 20, 1976 -- more than 60 days after respondent's letter had been submitted to the EEOC and 357 days after respondent's discharge -- the EEOC notified petitioner that respondent had filed an employment discrimination charge. About a year later, on August 24, 1977, the EEOC issued its determination that there was no reasonable cause to believe respondent's charge was true, and notified respondent that he had a statutory right to file a private action. Respondent then commenced such an action 91 days later in Federal District Court. Granting summary judgment for petitioner, the District Court held that § 706(c) precluded any filing with the EEOC until a date 60 days after June 15, 1976, and, because that date was 51 days beyond § 706(e)'s 300-day time limit for filing in so-called "deferral States," the charge was not timely filed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the District Court's literal reading of the Act did not give sufficient weight to the Act's overriding purpose of insuring that employment discrimination is redressed, that it was necessary to conclude that a charge is "filed" for purposes of § 706(e) when received, and "filed" as required by § 706(c) when the state deferral period ends, and that therefore the letter received by the EEOC

Page 447 U. S. 808

on June 15, 1976, had been filed within 300 days as required by § 706(e), but had not been filed during the 60-day deferral period for purposes of § 706(c) .

Held: A literal reading of §§ 706(c) and(e) so as to give the word "filed" the same meaning in both subsections gives full effect to the several policies reflected in the Act. Under this literal reading, respondent's charge was not timely filed, because it was "filed" on the 351st day (60 days after June 15, 1976, or the earliest date upon which the EEOC could allow the charge to be filed), by which time the applicable 300-day limitations period had run. Pp. 447 U. S. 815-826.

(a) The Act's legislative history is entirely consistent with the wording of the Act itself, there being nothing to indicate that complainants in some States were to be allowed to proceed with less diligence than those in other States or to give deferral state complainants any advantage over nondeferral state complainants with respect to the time for filing unlawful employment practice charges. Pp. 447 U. S. 818-824.

(b) A literal reading of the statute is not unfair to victims of employment discrimination who often proceed without the assistance of counsel. P. 447 U. S. 825.

(c) There is no merit to respondent's argument based on the EEOC's interpretation, since that agency's interpretation cannot supersede the language chosen by Congress. P. 447 U. S. 825.

(d) Nor is there any merit to the argument that a less literal reading of the statute allowing the EEOC to treat a letter received on the 291st day as "filed," and interpreting § 706(c)'s prohibition as merely requiring the EEOC to postpone any action on a charge for at least 60 days, would adequately effectuate the policy of deferring to state agencies. Congress clearly intended to encourage the prompt processing of all employment discrimination charges. To accept respondent's position would add a 60-day period to the schedule mandated by Congress, and would unreasonably give the word "filed" two different meanings in the same section of the Act. Pp. 447 U. S. 825-826.

602 F.2d 1083, reversed.

STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and STEWART, WHITE, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. BLACKMUN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 447 U. S. 826.

Page 447 U. S. 809

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