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EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMM. v. CROWNLINE BOATS

June 14, 2005.

EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Plaintiff,
v.
CROWNLINE BOATS, INC., Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This matter comes before the Court on defendant Crownline Boats Inc.'s ("Crownline") motion to dismiss this case pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and alternative motion for stay (Doc. 3). Plaintiff Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has responded to the motion (Doc. 6), and Crownline has replied to the EEOC's response (Doc. 10).

I. Alleged Facts

  In order to decide this motion, the Court only needs to consider the basic facts to which each party agrees. Leslie Kearney, a former employee of Crownline, was discharged on February 14, 2003 because she was pregnant. At the time of Kearney's termination, Crownline had a policy of not allowing pregnant women to work in the Lamination Department, the department in which Kearney was working when she was discharged. On April 21, 2003, Kearney filed a charge with the EEOC alleging that Crownline discharged her based on sex, specifically pregnancy, in violation of Section 703(a)(1) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(a)(1).

  Around June 19, 2003, Crownline tendered to Kearney an offer to return to work with full reinstatement and seniority, but Kearney chose to wait until the birth of her child before returning to work on September 15, 2003. Crownline has voluntarily instituted new policies and procedures concerning its pregnant employees. These procedures, Crownline alleges, were instituted to address the EEOC's concerns.

  On December 16, 2003, the EEOC issued its Letter of Determination stating it had reasonable cause to believe Crownline discriminated against Kearney and a class of Crownline employees because of sex, pregnancy specifically. The Letter of Determination also asked Crownline to take part in conciliation efforts by proposing terms for a conciliation agreement. Crownline shortly responded by setting forth an initial offer of an agreement not to terminate any employee because of their pregnancy and an agreement to refrain from engaging in future unlawful employment acts. The EEOC responded with an oral conciliation demand of $250,000 in back pay and other make whole relief for other class members, as well as a demand that Crownline institute training, posting and a policy change.

  Crownline made an oral counteroffer on February 6, 2004, which included back pay for Kearney. On February 18, 2004, Crownline offered a written counteroffer of $4,338.57 as full back pay for Kearney, less any amount she received in the interim. Further, Crownline stated it refused to make a settlement offer regarding any other class members nor did it comment on the EEOC's training and policy change requests. After Crownline's written counteroffer, the EEOC issued a letter stating the conciliation efforts had been unsuccessful.

  II. Procedural History

  On November 24, 2004, the EEOC then filed a complaint with this Court pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title I of the Civil Rights Act of 1991. The EEOC alleges Crownline has violated Section 703(a)(1) of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1), specifically, because Crownline discharged Kearney and others because of sex, in particular, pregnancy. The EEOC has requested a permanent injunction enjoining Crownline from engaging in discrimination based on sex and pregnancy, an order for Crownline to remedy past and present violations of Title VII by instituting policies and programs to provide equal employment opportunities for females, an order for Crownline to make whole Kearney and the class, and other appropriate relief. Crownline subsequently filed this motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and alternative motion for stay.

  Crownline argues this motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction should be granted because the EEOC has not attempted good faith conciliation efforts with Crownline and that Crownline was ready, willing, and able to conciliate at all times. By bringing this motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), Crownline assumes that good faith conciliation is a jurisdictional prerequisite, which must be attempted before this Court has authority to hear this action. The EEOC has responded to Crownline's motion to dismiss asserting that it has attempted good faith conciliation. The EEOC points out in a footnote that conciliation is not a jurisdictional prerequisite, but nevertheless alternatively argues that it has attempted good faith conciliation and Crownline's motion should be denied, regardless.

  Crownline replied to the EEOC's response. Crownline further argues the EEOC has admitted it made no effort to conciliate the class claim, and the EEOC has conceded that it failed to satisfy its statutory obligation of conciliation with Kearney.

  III. Analysis

  Although Crownline asks the Court to dismiss the EEOC's complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because the EEOC has failed to attempt good faith conciliation efforts, the Court finds it unnecessary to determine the sufficiency of the conciliation at this time. Neither good faith conciliation, nor conciliation in general, are jurisdictional prerequisites to this Court's authority over the matter. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has not stated directly whether conciliation is a jurisdictional prerequisite to the EEOC filing a complaint. However, principles of statutory construction, policy analysis, and opinions by the United States Supreme Court and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals addressing similar issues guide this Court to the determination that conciliation is not a jurisdictional prerequisite.

  Statutory duties and conditions precedent, such as the administrative duty to conciliate, are preconditions to suit. Although the parties and other courts, on occasion, have carelessly referred to preconditions to suit as being jurisdictional in nature, preconditions are altogether different than jurisdictional prerequisites. Preconditions to suit are a duty that must be performed before a suit can ...


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