Appeal from the Appellate Court for the Fourth District; heard
in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Sangamon
County, the Hon. Simon L. Friedman, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE RYAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Rehearing denied March 30, 1978.
In April 1973 the plaintiffs, the city of Springfield, the County of Sangamon, and the Springfield-Sangamon County Regional Plan Commission, filed three administrative review actions in the circuit court of Sangamon County, pursuant to the provisions of the Administrative Review Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 110, par. 264 et seq.). The actions, which were consolidated in the circuit court, sought to review a decision of the Illinois Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC) rendered on March 29, 1973, which had found that the plaintiffs had committed an unfair employment practice by not hiring defendant Elwood Smith because of his race. The Commission had ordered plaintiffs to offer Smith the job and to pay him back wages and the fringe benefits to which he was entitled. The circuit court ruled that the FEPC had lost jurisdiction of the case prior to the time of its decision and set aside the ruling. On appeal, the appellate court held that the FEPC had jurisdiction over the Springfield-Sangamon County Regional Plan Commission and the County of Sangamon and remanded the cause to the circuit court for a decision on the merits as to those two plaintiffs. Subsequently, the appellate court withdrew the original opinion and filed another opinion in which it affirmed the circuit court order as to the Springfield-Sangamon County Regional Plan Commission, but held that the FEPC had jurisdiction over the city of Springfield and County of Sangamon. At the request of the parties on rehearing, the appellate court agreed to consider the case on the merits, and in addition to its jurisdictional finding, sustained the FEPC's finding of discrimination. (45 Ill. App.3d 116.) We granted leave to appeal.
On June 12, 1968, defendant Elwood Smith filed a charge of unfair employment practice with the FEPC naming as respondents "City of Springfield Plan Commission, Nelson Howarth, Mayor, Eugene Estes, Chairman, Bradley Taylor, Executive Director." The charge stemmed from the refusal of the Springfield-Sangamon County Regional Plan Commission to hire Smith as its "Urban Renewal Planner Administrator." Smith, who is black, and who had interviewed with Taylor after answering an advertisement in the newspaper, charged that he was discriminated against because of his race, in that on May 20, 1968, the plan commission hired a white man for the position of administrator, who Smith alleged was less qualified for the job.
Smith filed an amended charge on September 9, 1968, to change the name of respondents to "Springfield-Sangamon County Regional Plan Commission, Eugene Estes, Chairman, Bradley Taylor, Executive Director, City of Springfield Plan Commission." The FEPC began investigating the charge of unfair employment practices against the plan commission, and several conciliation conferences were conducted. On December 5, 1968, a stipulation was entered into purporting to extend the 180-day period in which the FEPC could issue a complaint (which began to run on June 12, 1968, the day the charge was properly filed), as provided by section 8 of the Fair Employment Practices Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1967, ch. 48, par. 858(c)). The stipulation, which was entered into by both Smith and the Springfield-Sangamon County Regional Plan Commission and approved by the FEPC, was subsequently modified, and a similar agreement was entered into by the same parties. As a result, the 180-day period was purportedly extended to March 31, 1969.
Further conciliation proved unfruitful, and on March 25, 1969, a complaint was filed by the FEPC naming Springfield-Sangamon County Regional Plan Commission as respondent and alleging an unfair employment practice on or about May 20, 1968, as set forth in the charge. On April 30, 1969, the FEPC amended its complaint to include the additional dates of the month of October 1967, January 26, 1969, February 14, 1969, and March 18, 1969.
On August 22, 1969, Smith petitioned the FEPC to amend the complaint to add plaintiffs city of Springfield and County of Sangamon as additional respondents, and the petition was allowed by the Commission on October 7, 1969. However, for reasons that are not entirely clear from the record, the amended complaint was not filed until April 28, 1970. The substance of the amended complaint essentially remained the same, alleging an unfair employment practice as the result of the refusal of the Springfield-Sangamon County Regional Plan Commission to hire Smith because he is black, as set forth in his charge of June 12, 1968. Smith's charge of unfair employment practices which was attached to the amended complaint was a copy of the amended charge which Smith had filed on September 9, 1968, with the words "County of Sangamon and City of Springfield" interlineated following the words "Springfield-Sangamon County Regional Planning Commission." The sole charge of unfair employment practice against the city and county in the amended charge, and in the amended complaint, is that which was alleged to have occurred on May 20, 1968. The additional dates of alleged unfair practices which were charged against the Springfield-Sangamon County Regional Plan Commission in the amended complaint filed by the FEPC on April 30, 1969, were not alleged in the amended complaint with which we are here concerned.
We first consider the question of jurisdiction, a point which has been extensively debated throughout the entirety of the proceedings. To determine whether or not the FEPC retained jurisdiction over the matter, we must consider the relevant portions of the Fair Employment Practices Act. The Act, as it was in effect at the time of Smith's initial charge, provided:
"(a) Whenever within 120 days after the date that an unfair employment practice allegedly has been committed, a charge in writing under oath or affirmation is filed with the Commission by a complainant and in such detail as to substantially apprise any party properly concerned as to the time, place and facts with respect to such alleged unfair employment practice, that any employer * * * has committed such unfair employment practice, the Commission shall promptly serve a copy of the charge or summary thereof on the respondent and thereafter shall institute an investigation by its employees to ascertain the facts relating to such alleged unfair employment practice. If it is determined by the Commission, after such investigation, that there is not substantial evidence that the alleged unfair employment practice has been committed, the charge shall be dismissed; otherwise the Commission, or any member thereof, shall endeavor to eliminate the effect thereof and prevent repetition thereof by means of conference and conciliation. * * *
(c) Whenever a charge of an unfair employment practice has been properly filed, the Commission, within 180 days thereof, shall either issue and serve a complaint in the manner and form set forth in this Section or shall order that no complaint be issued. Any such order shall be duly served upon both the complainant and the respondent." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1967, ch. 48, par. 858.
We first consider whether the 180-day time requirement of subsection (c) is a jurisdictional limitation which deprived the FEPC of authority to act after its expiration. We do not agree with the holding of the appellate court that the 180-day period requirement is merely directory in nature. While the period is not jurisdictional in the sense that it cannot be waived, it is our view that the limitation imposed a mandatory time within which a complaint could issue by the FEPC. It is well established that such time periods will be considered directory only where the rights of the parties are not injuriously affected by the failure to act within the time indicated. (Carrigan v. Illinois Liquor Control Com. (1960), 19 Ill.2d 230.) Certainly, periods of inaction on behalf of the FEPC would tend to hamper the remedial and reconciliatory procedures which underlie the very purpose of the Fair Employment Practices Act, and should the FEPC find against the respondents the financial burden of the administrative order could be substantially increased by virtue of any extended delay. Consequently, the 180-day period prescribed in the statute was intended to ensure expeditious action on behalf of the FEPC, and must be considered mandatory.
Since the time period, then, imposes a mandatory limit within which the agency is required to act, it is comparable to a statute of limitations. This court has previously interpreted similar time periods as having this effect. (See Pantle v. Industrial Com. (1975), 61 Ill.2d 365.) Being a statute of limitations, its application is subject to waiver, estoppel, and extension by the parties. (See Molex, Inc. v. Industrial Com. (1975), 62 Ill.2d 46.) This is the precise effect of the amendatory language, which presently is ...