fees and costs under Title VII, regardless of the type of administrative proceeding below, and regardless of whether suit was filed before or after the conclusion of the administrative proceedings.
We agree for four reasons. First, Congress intended Title VII's procedures and remedies to "mesh nicely, logically, and coherently with state and city legislation" designed to combat discrimination. Id., -- - U.S. at -- , 100 S. Ct. at 2031. Congress obviously understood that a variety of state and local procedures would have to be harmonized with Title VII's procedures; it did not intend to dictate to the state and city governments what type of procedure they should use, if any. Thus it is unlikely that Congress intended the award of attorney's fees to turn on the particular type of administrative proceeding chosen by the state in its anti-discrimination legislation. The District's argument to the contrary fails.
The second reason we agree with plaintiff is that adoption of the District's position-that § 706(c) permits attorney's fees only where a litigant filed suit before the successful resolution of the complaint in administrative proceedings-would undercut the whole purpose and importance of an exhaustion requirement, i. e., the settlement of discrimination complaints on the administrative level. Litigants would be encouraged both to forego the administrative pursuit of legitimate claims, and to come to federal court at the first possible opportunity under § 706(c). Carey v. New York Gaslight Club, Inc., supra, at 64, 100 S. Ct. at 2031. Congress intended neither result.
A third reason supports plaintiff's position. Undercutting the limited exhaustion requirement of the statute would be especially undesirable where, as here, a "state" employee presses a discrimination claim against the "state" government. As a practical matter, state officials responsible for the administrative resolution of such complaints are likely to be far more familiar with the factual context in which such claims arise than federal judges will be. Moreover, considerations of federalism support the idea that state officials should be given the opportunity to make a good faith effort to vindicate the constitutional rights of state employees, as happened here. If the District's argument against attorney's fees were adopted, it would undermine these purposes of the exhaustion requirement by penalizing those employees who pressed their claims through the District's extremely leisurely administrative process without resorting to this court at their first opportunity.
If attorney's fees for legal representation at the administrative level are not to be paid or reimbursed, a plaintiff would have no incentive to pursue an administrative disposition.
Finally, we disagree with the District's position here because it would be anomalous to permit D.C. Government employees covered by civil service to recover attorney's fees for legal work done in administrative proceedings, see, e.g., Smith v. Califano, supra, but to forbid other D.C. employees to recover attorney's fees for legal work successfully done before the D.C. Office of Human Rights. In both cases, the employee must first present his claim to the appropriate administrative body before he can present his claim to this court. There is simply no basis to argue that D.C. employees not covered by the civil service laws should be barred from recovering such attorney's fees and costs, when their counterparts in the civil service, in private industry, and most likely, in state governments, would be permitted to recover such fees.
The District argues that its Office of Human Rights is not authorized to award attorney's fees and costs, but that, even if such is authorized, denial of fees lies within its discretion. In addition, the District argues, plaintiff incurred no costs since the Office of Human Rights investigated the complaint and the Department of General Services paid for the transcript.
These arguments are irrelevant to the matter of this court's authority to grant attorney's fees. Whether or not the Office of Human Rights is empowered to award costs and fees,
it is settled that Title VII authorizes this court to do so. Civil Rights Act of 1964, § 706(k), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(k) (1976 ed.). The Supreme Court has ruled that "absent special circumstances," federal district courts should grant attorney's fees to the prevailing plaintiff in a Title VII action. Carey v. New York Gaslight Club, Inc., supra, -- - U.S. at -- , 100 S. Ct. at 2032; Christiansburg Garment Co. v. EEOC, 434 U.S. 412, 416-17, 98 S. Ct. 694, 697, 54 L. Ed. 2d 648 (1978). In the absence of such special circumstances, it would be an abuse of discretion to deny the award of fees and costs. See id.
The District has shown no special circumstances warranting denial of fees and costs here. Its argument that plaintiff incurred no costs is an evidentiary matter to be resolved when plaintiff submits his verified petition for reimbursement.
Plaintiff asserts a pendent claim for $ 400 in "statutory" damages said to be owing him under the guidelines of the D.C. Human Rights Commission. He argues that these guidelines require the Office of Human Rights, a separate body, to award him this sum of damages upon a showing that he was the victim of discrimination. We disagree.
The Office of Human Rights is the exclusive route for non-civil service employees of the District Government to press claims of employment discrimination. O'Neill v. Office of Human Rights, supra ; D.C. Human Rights Law, § 303, D.C.Code Ann. § 6-2283 (Supp. V 1978). On this issue, where such damages are not explicitly authorized in the Human Rights Law, the guidelines of the Human Rights Commission cannot be said to require the Office of Human Rights to provide such a damages remedy. (We do not need to reach the issue of whether the Human Rights Law requires the Office of Human Rights to provide costs and attorney's fees). To rule otherwise would be to grant the Human Rights Commission authority over D.C. employees' discrimination claims that the City Council has vested exclusively in the Mayor and the Office of Human Rights. Id. Thus plaintiff's claim for damages is denied.
For the foregoing reasons, we grant plaintiff's motion for summary judgment on the issues of costs and attorney's fees, and grant the District's cross-motion for summary judgment on the issue of statutory damages.