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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Liberty Trucking Co.

decided: December 20, 1982.


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. No. 77-C-440 -- James E. Doyle, Judge.

Eschbach, Circuit Judge, Swygert, Senior Circuit Judge, and Campbell, Senior District Judge.*fn*

Author: Swygert

SWYGERT, Senior Circuit Judge.

This appeal concerns the ability of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") to enforce conciliation agreements in the federal courts. The district court found that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over EEOC's attempt to enforce a conciliation agreement. EEOC v. Liberty Trucking Co., 528 F. Supp. 610, 624 (W.D. Wis. 1981). We reverse.

The underlying facts of this case illustrate the statutory background and the manner in which the EEOC handles many of the complaints annually filed with it. Delbert Carnahan filed a timely charge with the EEOC on December 15, 1972, after being fired from his job with the defendant Liberty Trucking Company ("Liberty"). Carnahan alleged that he had been discriminated against because he is a Seventh Day Adventist. The EEOC investigated the charge and on March 27, 1975 it issued its determination that there was reasonable cause to believe that Carnahan's rights had been violated. EEOC undertook informal conciliation as mandated by 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(b) (1976).*fn1 A conciliation agreement was negotiated which was acceptable to the EEOC, pursuant to section 706(f)(1) of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1) (1976), Liberty, and Carnahan.*fn2 These three parties signed the conciliation agreement during the spring of 1977.

The conciliation agreement provided for Carnahan's reinstatement, back wages and other compensation, his attorney's fees, and that Liberty would "make reasonable accommodations to the religious needs of its . . . employees[,]" and would adjust Carnahan's work schedule to fit his religious beliefs. In other provisions, Liberty agreed not to discharge Carnahan without notifying the EEOC and to submit regular reports to the EEOC. Carnahan waived his right to sue with regard to the matters in the EEOC charges, subject to performance by Liberty of its promises. The conciliation agreement was to last for two years.

Liberty breached the agreement after six months. The EEOC's attempts to resolve the matter, beyond reinstatement of Carnahan, were unsuccessful. The EEOC then filed this action to enforce the terms of the conciliation agreement in November, 1977. Although the district court found that the defendant deliberately violated the conciliation agreement, the court dismissed the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. 528 F. Supp. at 624.


The question is whether a suit brought by the EEOC seeking enforcement of a conciliation agreement is one brought directly under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended.*fn3 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000 et seq. (1976). If so, the federal district courts have jurisdiction over the action, pursuant to section 706(f)(3) of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(3) (1976).*fn4

Although Title VII does not explicitly provide the EEOC with the authority to seek enforcement of conciliation agreements in the federal courts, we conclude that Congress intended to provide the EEOC with a federal forum to enforce conciliation agreements.*fn5 The federal courts have consistently interpreted Title VII in a manner which places great weight on the important remedial purposes of the legislation, recognizing that a hyper-technical construction of Title VII is inappropriate. See, e.g., Zipes v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 455 U.S. 385, 102 S. Ct. 1127, 1135, 71 L. Ed. 2d 234 (1982). In Flowers v. Local No. 6, Laborers International Union of North America, 431 F.2d 205, 207 (7th Cir. 1970), we observed that " . . . Title VII was not enacted as originally proposed and debated but was quilted with amendments. Not surprisingly, therefore, Title VII contains gaps . . . ." Although this observation applied to the legislation prior to the 1972 amendments, its accuracy is undoubtedly more correct now.

Congress is not required to fill in every detail so long as it has provided enough federal law "from which appropriate remedies may be fashioned even though they rest on inferences. Otherwise we impute to Congress a futility inconsistent with the great design of this legislation." United States v. Republic Steel Corp., 362 U.S. 482, 492, 80 S. Ct. 884, 890, 4 L. Ed. 2d 903 (1960). Cf., Wells v. International Great Lakes Shipping Co., 693 F.2d 663 at 665 (7th Cir. 1982) ("The absence of such machinery [to enforce substantive rights in a federal statute] would be a curious oversight which we hesitate to impute to the draftsman.").

We first turn to the legislative history of the 1972 amendments to Title VII to determine Congress' intent with respect to the enforceability of conciliation agreements in the federal courts. See Zipes, supra, 102 S. Ct. at 1132-33. The relevant portions of Congressional consideration of this matter concerns the nature of the EEOC's enforcement powers. The Senate and the House of Representatives originally acted upon substantially similar bills. S. 2515, S. Rep. No. 415, 92d Cong., 1st Sess. 38 (1971); H. 1746, H. Rep. No. 238, 92d Cong., 2d Sess. 17 (1972), reprinted in 1 Legislative History of the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972 (1972) ("1 Leg. His.") at 157, 410, 32, 61, respectively. Both bills proposed a quasi-judicial administrative model which granted the EEOC authority to issue judicially enforceable cease and desist orders. S. Rep. No. 415, supra, at 1, 1 Leg. His. 410; H.R. Rep. No. 238, supra, at 1, 1 Leg. His. 61. Review of such orders could be sought in the United States courts of appeals. S. 2515, supra, § 706(1), 1 Leg. His. 168; H.R. 1746, supra, § 706(k), 1 Leg. His. 40. In addition, both bills provided that the EEOC could seek temporary or preliminary relief in the federal district court. S. 2515, supra, § 706(p), 1 Leg. His. 171; H.R. 1746, supra, § 706(o), 1 Leg. His. 43. Importantly, both bills explicitly provided that conciliation agreements entered into by the EEOC and the employer were enforceable by the Commission in the federal courts of appeals. S. 2515, supra, § 706(i), 1 Leg. His. 165; H.R. 1746, supra, § 706(i), 1 Leg. His. 39.

The substitute bill, H.R. 9247, 92d Cong. 1st Sess. (1971), 1 Leg. His. 141, which in part became the current law altered the EEOC enforcement scheme by empowering the EEOC to seek enforcement of Title VII in the federal district courts. H.R. 9247, supra, § e, 1 Leg. His. 144-45. In place of the complex jurisdiction provisions of the original proposals, detailed above, the entire provision for federal court jurisdiction was simply subsumed in section 706(f)(3), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(3), which contains the ambiguous phrase "actions brought under this title." Section 706(f)(3) of the 1972 amendments is identical to the jurisdictional provision adopted in the original 1964 act. See Pub. L. 88-352, 78 Stat. 241, Sec. 706(f), July 2, 1964.

The sole concern of the substantive bill was whether if conciliation could not be reached, the EEOC was to seek enforcement of Title VII in the federal courts or in administrative proceedings. 117 Cong. Rec. 31958-84, 32088-110, 1 Leg. His. 191-250. There is no question that reaching conciliation agreements was to remain the preeminent focus of EEOC activity. See Conference Report to Accompany H.R. 1746, Joint Explanatory Statement of Managers at the Conference on H.R. 1746 to Further Promote Equal Employment Opportunities for American Workers, S. Rep. No. 681 and H.R. Rep. No. 899, 92d Cong., 2d Sess. 17 (1972); 2 Leg. His. 1837. Nothing in the debates or reports indicates that ...

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