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Smith v. General Scanning Inc.

decided: October 22, 1987.

JAMES SMITH, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
GENERAL SCANNING, INC., DEFENDANT-APPELLEE



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. No. 85-C-1648 -- Terence T. Evans, Judge.

Bauer, Chief Judge, and Wood, Jr., Circuit Judge, and Grant, Senior District Judge.*fn*

Author: Grant

GRANT, Senior Circuit Judge.

James Smith brought an action under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. § 621 (1982), against his employer, General Scanning, Inc. (GSI), in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. The district court granted GSI's motion for summary judgment on the ground that Smith had failed to establish a prima facie case of age discrimination, and Smith appealed. Because the appellant did not defer first to state remedies by commencing proceedings under the appropriate state law before bringing suit under the ADEA, we now vacate the decision of the district court and dismiss appellant's claim.

I

On October 3, 1980, GSI hired appellant Smith, then 57 years old, to be an Applications Engineer/Sales Person in its Eastern Region motor division office in Boston. A year later the company transferred him to the Central Region office in Chicago, as a Sales Engineer, to promote GSI's two basic products, Electro-Optical (laser) Scanners and Electro-Mechanical (strip chart) Recorders. However, Smith was notified by letter dated December 9, 1983, that GSI was closing its Central Region sales office, and that Smith's duties would terminate on December 31, 1983. The reason given for the termination was that GSI was forced to reduce its sales staff "because of a second year of flat sales and reduced profits." Smith was then 60 years old.

Smith filed a charge of age discrimination with the Wisconsin Department of Industry, Labor and Human Relations on June 26, 1984. That agency returned the charge to him for lack of jurisdiction over an employer located in Massachusetts. Thereafter, on September 5 of that year, he submitted the charge to the Boston office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; the EEOC replied that it would not proceed further with its processing of Smith's charge. Smith's third filing was this action, brought in federal district court in Wisconsin on December 6, 1985.

The district court, without addressing the administrative filing requirements of the ADEA, granted GSI's motion for summary judgment on two grounds. It first found that the plaintiff failed to prove an essential element of the prima facie case of age discrimination, qualification for the position.*fn1 It further found that, even had Smith established a prima facie case, GSI's reasons for its employment decisions were legitimate and nondiscriminatory. Because Smith was unable to show that his employer's reasons were pretextual, he failed in his final burden. Thus, the court granted GSI summary judgment as a matter of law.

This court finds that Smith did not pursue his state remedy properly before filing his complaint in federal court. For this reason, we decline to address the merits of the case, and will consider only Smith's noncompliance with ADEA's filing mandates.

II

The ADEA has established clear prelitigation filing requirements in two statutory provisions, 29 U.S.C. § 626(d) and § 633(b).*fn2 Together they mandate that a complainant pursue his administrative remedies before filing a civil action.

Section 626(d) requires a charge of unlawful discrimination to be filed first with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which then must be allowed at least sixty days to resolve the dispute by conciliation of the parties before an individual can file suit. Moreover, under § 633(b), if the state in which the alleged discriminatory conduct occurred is a "deferral state," i.e., a state with its own age discrimination law and its own agency authorized "to grant or seek relief from such discriminatory practice," then proceedings must be commenced under state law, and the state agency must be given sixty days for mediation and remedy before suit may be brought. Both Illinois, the workplace of the terminated employee, and Massachusetts, the principal place of business of the employer, are deferral states. See Hadfield v. Mitre Corp., 562 F.2d 84 (1st Cir. 1977); Willis v. Berger Transfer & Storage, Inc., 529 F. Supp. 279 (N.D. Ill. 1981).

Appellant Smith filed his charge with the EEOC within the extended 300-day federal filing period allowed an aggrieved party alleging a discriminatory act in a deferral state. Anderson v. Illinois Tool Works, Inc., 753 F.2d 622, 629 (7th Cir. 1985). He also complied with the sixty-day waiting period required under § 626(d). But he never commenced a proceeding with the appropriate State authority as mandated by § 633(b).

This court has insisted that an individual defer to the available state remedies and federal administrative methods of dispute resolution prior to initiation of a federal action under the ADEA. Stearns v. Consolidated Management, Inc., 747 F.2d 1105, 1109-10 (7th Cir. 1984). In a deferral state, the complainant has the full 300-day filing period "so long as he files a state claim." Anderson v. Illinois Tool Works, Inc., 753 F.2d at 625 n.3. Although the court does not demand that state filing be timely, "plaintiffs are still required to commence state proceedings." Id. See also Duggan v. Board of Education of East Chicago Heights, 818 F.2d 1291, 1296 (7th Cir. 1987). An individual can file with the state administrative body and the EEOC at the ...


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