The opinion of the court was delivered by: GREENE
This is an action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act in which plaintiffs, present and former employees of the United States Marshals Service, allege that defendants have discriminated against them in recruitment, hiring, assignments, training, promotions, and discipline on account of their race. The instant motion for partial summary judgment claims failure to exhaust administrative remedies by a number of plaintiffs.
The motion will be granted.
Section 717 of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16, provides the exclusive judicial remedy for discriminatory employment practices in the federal government. Brown v. General Services Administration, 425 U.S. 820, 829, 48 L. Ed. 2d 402, 96 S. Ct. 1961 (1976). In order to invoke the jurisdiction of the Court under this section, an aggrieved employee must exhaust his administrative remedies. Id. See also Sampson v. Civiletti, 632 F.2d 860, 862 (10th Cir. 1980). The first procedural requirement is that the complainant timely seek relief in the agency that has allegedly discriminated against him. Mangiapane v. Adams, 213 U.S. App. D.C. 152, 661 F.2d 1388 (D.C. Cir. 1981). Defendants allege that plaintiffs Franklin Beagle, Alfred Bell, James Perry, and the National Black Deputy United States Marshals Organization have failed to file an administrative complaint with the United States Marshals Service.
The exhaustion requirement serves important policies. The requirement that aggrieved employees present their discrimination complaints to an agency rather than to a court in the first instance encourages informal, concilatory resolution of disputes and reduces the burden on federal courts. Sampson v. Civiletti, supra, 632 F.2d at 862-63. In addition, it permits the agency to develop a record and to exercise its discretion, to apply its expertise, and possibly to discover and correct its own errors. Id. at 863. See also, Cooper v. Bell, 628 F.2d 1208 (9th Cir. 1980). However, because lay persons, unassisted by trained lawyers, initiate the complex process of resolving employment discrimination complaints, the administrative and procedural requirements to Title VII are not interpreted too technically or applied too mechanically. Love v. Pullman Co., 404 U.S. 522, 527, 30 L. Ed. 2d 679, 92 S. Ct. 616 (1972); Shehadeh v. Chesapeake & Potomac Tel. Co., 193 U.S. App. D.C. 326, 595 F.2d 711, 727 (D.C. Cir. 1978); Richerson v. Jones, 572 F.2d 89, 95-96 (3rd Cir. 1978). While a charge of employment discrimination therefore need not track the formal rules of pleading, it must describe the facts and legal theory with sufficient clarity to notify the agency that employment discrimination is claimed. Cooper v. Bell, 628 F.2d 1208, 1211 (9th Cir. 1980); Shehadeh v. Chesapeake & Potomac Tel. Co., 193 U.S. App. D.C. 326, 595 F.2d 711, 727-28 (D.C. Cir. 1978); 29 C.F.R. § 1601.11.
Franklin Beagle and Alfred Bell concede that they have not filed a written complaint with the United States Marshals Service. However, they claim that in 1977 they registered discrimination complaints with Earl Tolson, the EEO Counselor for the District of Columbia Marshals' Office, and that he assured them that their complaints would be processed.
Relying on these alleged assurances from Tolson,
plaintiffs did not take any further action because they assumed that their complaints were being processed. Plaintiffs argue that by giving notice to the EEO Counselor and relying in good faith upon the agency's assurances, they fully complied with the procedural requirements of filing a complaint and exhausting their administrative remedies.
Even if a court were to find for purposes of this motion that plaintiffs' general statements regarding their attempts to file EEO complaints create a genuine issue of material fact (which is doubtful -- see notes 3 and 4 supra), the Court would still be required to dismiss their complaints. By bringing their complaints of discrimination to the attention of the EEO Counselor, plaintiffs took only the first step in the administrative process.
The regulations require aggrieved federal employees to file a timely written complaint. 29 C.F.R. § 1613.214(a)(1) provides
(i) The complainant brought to the attention of the Equal Employment Opportunity Counselor the matter causing him to believe he had been discriminated against within 30 calendar days of its effective date; and
(ii) The complainant or his representative submitted his written complaint to an appropriate official within 15 calendar days of the date of his final interview with the Equal Employment Opportunity Counselor.
Even if Tolson's alleged representation to plaintiffs supported an equitable tolling of Title VII's administrative exhaustion requirements, it clearly does not excuse plaintiffs from at least filing a complaint. Siegel v. Kreps, 210 U.S. App. D.C. 58, 654 F.2d 773, 777 (D.C. Cir. 1981). Between the time Bell and Beagle complained briefly and orally to the EEO counselor and the time this lawsuit was filed, they never pursued their complaints with the agency. In other words, for over two years Bell and Beagle did absolutely ...