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UNITED STATES EEOC v. CHICAGO HOUS. AUTH.

November 30, 1989

UNITED STATES EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Plaintiff,
v.
CHICAGO HOUSING AUTHORITY, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: NORGLE

 CHARLES RONALD NORGLE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 Before the court is the motion of defendant, Chicago Housing Authority ("CHA"), to strike the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's ("EEOC") prayer for liquidated damages and demand for jury trial. For the following reasons, the court denies the motion.

 FACTS

 The relevant facts are not in dispute. The EEOC brings this suit on behalf of Sue Ann Rosen, Ann Breen-Greco, Irene Lyons and Countess Cary. These women are all attorneys who were formerly employed by the CHA. All four were discharged from CHA employment on the same day, February 3, 1988. The EEOC contends this was in retaliation for the filing, by the former employees, of Equal Pay Act charges with the EEOC. The EEOC filed a first amended complaint on January 31, 1989, charging the CHA with retaliatory discharge in violation of 29 U.S.C. § 215(a)(3). The EEOC bases its authority to bring this action on 29 U.S.C. §§ 216(c) and 217. The EEOC also seeks back wages and liquidated damages pursuant to § 216(c). It is this last form of relief, liquidated damages, to which the CHA objects.

 DISCUSSION

 The CHA has made a motion to strike the liquidated damages portion of the first amended complaint, arguing that the EEOC does not have the authority to redress a § 215(a)(3) retaliation claim under § 216(c). *fn1" The EEOC, predictably, argues that § 216(c) does give it the right to bring such an action. This raises a question of statutory interpretation.

 The starting point in interpreting a statute is the language of the statute itself. Smith v. Bowen, 815 F.2d 1152 (7th Cir. 1987). Generally, the plain language of the statute is the best evidence of the statute's meaning. Meredith v. Bowen, 833 F.2d 650 (7th Cir. 1987). A court should look to all parts of a statute to determine its meaning. Kelly v. Wauconda Park Dist., 801 F.2d 269 (7th Cir. 1986), cert. den., 480 U.S. 940, 107 S. Ct. 1592, 94 L. Ed. 2d 781 (1987). When a statute is clear and unambiguous on its face, there is no need to look at the legislative history of the statute for interpretation and the court is limited to enforcing the statute according to its terms. Meredith, 833 F.2d at 654; Smith, 815 F.2d at 1154; International Korwin Corp. v. Kowalczyk, 665 F. Supp. 652 (N.D.Ill.1987). However, a court need not enforce the literal construction of a statute, if to do so would lead to absurd results or thwart the objective of the statute. Smith, 815 F.2d at 1154. The first step, then, is to determine if the statute is clear and unambiguous on its face. If it is not, the court may then turn to alternate sources to determine the statute's meaning. In the present case, the court concludes that the statute is clear and unambiguous. § 216(c), in pertinent part, states:

 
The Secretary *fn2" may bring an action in any court of competent jurisdiction to recover the amount of unpaid minimum wages or overtime compensation and an equal amount as liquidated damages. The right provided by subsection (b) of this section to bring an action by or on behalf of any employee to recover the liability specified in the first sentence of such subsection and of any employee to become a party plaintiff to any such action shall terminate upon the filing of a complaint by the Secretary in an action under this subsection in which a recovery is sought of unpaid minimum wages or unpaid overtime compensation under sections 206 and 207 of this title or liquidated damages provided by this subsection owing to such employee by an employer liable under the provisions of subsection (b) of this section, unless such action is dismissed without prejudice on motion of the Secretary. . . . 29 U.S.C. § 216(c) (Supp. 1989) (Emphasis added).

 Furthermore, § 216(b), in part, provides:

 
Any employer who violates the provisions of section 215(a)(3) of this title shall be liable for such legal or equitable relief as may be appropriate to effectuate the purposes of section 215(a)(3) of this title, including without limitation employment, reinstatement, promotion, and the payment of wages lost and an additional amount as liquidated damages. . . . The right provided by this subsection to bring an action by or on behalf of any employee, and the right of any employee to become a party plaintiff to any such action, shall terminate upon the filing of a complaint by the Secretary of Labor in an action under section 217 of this title in which (1) restraint is sought of any further delay in the payment of unpaid minimum wages, or the amount of unpaid overtime compensation, as the case may be, owing to such employee under section 206 or section 207 of this title by an employer liable therefor under provisions of this subsection or (2) legal or equitable relief is sought as a result of alleged violations of section 215(a)(3) of this title. 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) (Supp. 1989) (Emphasis added).

 When the statute is read and its plain meaning is taken into account, it becomes clear that §§ 216(b) and 216(c) allow the EEOC to bring an action for violation of § 215(a)(3) and to ask for liquidated damages for such a violation. Even if the court looks only to § 216(c) to find the EEOC's authority to bring an action, as is suggested by the CHA, section (c) clearly states that the EEOC may bring an action for liquidated damages owed to an employee under section (b). Section (b) allows an employee to bring an action for back pay and liquidated damages, and even goes so far as to specifically enumerate an action by the Secretary for legal relief for violations of § 215(a)(3) as cutting off an employee's right to sue. On its face, the statute allows the EEOC to "stand in the shoes" of the employee and sue for back pay and liquidated damages.

 The CHA argues that the EEOC has provided no case support for its interpretation. The court believes that this is due less to the "weakness" of the plaintiff's position and more to the plain and simple meaning of the language of the statute. The CHA cannot simply argue ambiguity into existence where no ambiguity is present.


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