LOGAN V. ZIMMERMAN BRUSH CO., 455 U. S. 422 (1982)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Logan v. Zimmerman Brush Co., 455 U.S. 422 (1982)

Logan v. Zimmerman Brush Co.

No. 80-5950

Argued October 14, 1981

Decided February 24, 1982

455 U.S. 422


The Illinois Fair Employment Practices Act (FEPA) barred employment discrimination on the basis of physical handicap unrelated to ability. To obtain relief, a complainant had to bring a charge of unlawful conduct before the Illinois Fair Employment Practices Commission (Commission) within 180 days of the occurrence of such alleged conduct. The statute then gave the Commission 120 days within which to convene a factfinding conference to obtain evidence, ascertain the parties' positions, and explore the possibility of a settlement. Appellant, an employee of appellee, was discharged purportedly because his short left leg made it impossible for him to perform his duties as a shipping clerk. Appellant filed a timely charge alleging unlawful termination of his employment, but, apparently through inadvertence, the Commission scheduled the factfinding conference for a date 5 days after expiration of the 120-day statutory period. The Commission denied appellee's motion that the charge be dismissed for failure to hold a timely conference. On appeal, the Illinois Supreme Court held that the failure to comply with the 120-day convening requirement deprived the Commission of jurisdiction to consider appellant's charge, and rejected appellant's argument that his federal due process and equal protection rights would be violated were the Commission's error allowed to extinguish his cause of action.

Held: The judgment is reversed, and the case is remanded.

82 Ill.2d 99, 411 N.E.2d 277, reversed and remanded.

JUSTICE BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court, concluding that appellant was deprived of a protected property interest in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 455 U. S. 428-437.

(a) Appellant's right to use the FEPA's adjudicatory procedures is a species of property protected by the Due Process Clause. Cf. Mullane v. Central Hanover Bank & Trust Co., 339 U. S. 306. The hallmark of property is an individual entitlement grounded in state law, which cannot be removed except "for cause," and appellant's right shares this characteristic. The 120-day limitation is a procedural limitation on the claimant's ability to assert his rights, not a substantive element of the FEPA claim. Pp. 455 U. S. 428-433.

(b) A consideration of the competing interests involved -- the importance of the private interest and the length or finality of the deprivation,

Page 455 U. S. 423

the likelihood of governmental error, and the magnitude of the governmental interests -- leads to the conclusion that appellant is entitled to have the Commission consider the merits of his charge, based upon the substantiality of the available evidence, before deciding whether to terminate his claim. The State's interest in refusing appellant's procedural request is, on the record, insubstantial. Pp. 455 U. S. 433-435.

(c) The availability of a post-termination tort action does not provide appellant due process. It is the state system itself that destroys a complainant's property interest, by operation of law, whenever the Commission fails to convene a timely conference; appellant is challenging not the Commission's error, but the "established state procedure" that destroys his entitlement without according him proper procedural safeguards. Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U. S. 527, distinguished. The Fourteenth Amendment requires "an opportunity . . . granted at a meaningful time and in a meaningful manner' . . . `for [a] hearing appropriate to the nature of the case,'" Boddie v. Connecticut, 401 U. S. 371, 401 U. S. 378, and here appellant was denied such an opportunity. Pp. 455 U. S. 435-437.

JUSTICE BLACKMUN, in a separate opinion, joined by JUSTICE BRENNAN, JUSTICE MARSHALL, and JUSTICE O'CONNOR, concluded that, under the "rational basis" standard, the Illinois statute, as interpreted and applied by the Illinois Supreme Court to establish two categories -- those processed within the prescribed 120 days and thus entitled to full consideration on the merits, and otherwise identical claims not processed within the prescribed time, and thus terminated without a hearing -- deprived appellant of his Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection of the laws. Pp. 455 U. S. 438-442.

JUSTICE POWELL, joined by JUSTICE REHNQUIST, while not joining all the broad pronouncements on the law of equal protection in JUSTICE BLACKMUN's separate opinion, also concluded that the challenged classification, as construed and applied in this case, failed to be rationally related to a state interest that would justify it, and thus violated appellant's right to equal protection of the laws. Pp. 455 U. S. 443-444.

BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. BLACKMUN, J., also filed a separate opinion, in which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined, post, p. 455 U. S. 438. POWELL, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which REHNQUIST, J., joined, post, p. 455 U. S. 443.

Page 455 U. S. 424

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