AINSWORTH, Circuit Judge:
Willie A. Hutchings commenced this action against United States Industries, Inc. (the Company) under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. He charged that on two occasions the Company denied him a promotion solely because of his race or color. The District Court granted the Company's motion for a summary judgment. This appeal by Hutchings principally requires us to determine whether an employee who has utilized the grievance-arbitration machinery available to him under a collective bargaining agreement should be deemed to have made an election of remedies in seeking redress under the law of the shop, thereby waiving his right to a Title VII remedy in the federal courts. Issues involving the time period within which charges of discrimination must be filed with the EEOC as a precondition to court action and the applicability of rules of res judicata in Title VII cases are also presented.
Plaintiff, a Negro, was originally employed by the Company at its Petroleum Equipment Division in Longview, Texas, in 1961. The Company is engaged in the manufacture and marketing of metal products used in oil field production pumps. Hutchings was initially employed in the Foundry Casting Department as a
Employees at the Company's Longview Plant are unionized. In 1964 the Company signed a collective bargaining agreement with two local lodges of the International Association of Machinists, AFL-CIO. This agreement covered all production and maintenance hourly rated employees at the Longview Plant, with exceptions not relevant here. The agreement gives each employee company seniority and classification seniority. With respect to promotions, the agreement provides that seniority, skill, and ability in the next lower-rated job classification or classifications in the same seniority group will be given preference before new employees are hired. If skill and ability are relatively equal, seniority will prevail.
In early 1966, the position of leadman on the night shift was temporarily opened. Hutchings applied for this position. The position was thereafter assigned to a white man having less experience and seniority than Hutchings. Hutchings then made a grievance complaining of the awarding of the job to the less senior employee. This grievance was prosecuted through the "third step" of the grievance procedure, at which step the grievance was decided against Hutchings. The matter was not then submitted to arbitration. Instead, on March 1, 1966, Hutchings filed a formal charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This charge was based upon the Company's denial of the promotion to him and was filed within ninety days after the allegedly discriminatory acts occurred.
In September 1966, the leadman on the day shift resigned, and Hutchings applied for his position. The Company did not question Hutchings's ability to perform as a leadman. It did, however, abolish the position. On the ground that the position Hutchings sought no longer existed, his application for promotion was denied. Hutchings again made a grievance. This time, the grievance was prosecuted through all three steps in the grievance procedure and was then submitted to arbitration. On February 18, 1967, the arbitrator determined that the Company did not, under then existing operating conditions at the Longview Plant, violate the collective bargaining agreement in not replacing the services of the resigned leadman with those of Hutchings in the leadman classification. On March 6, 1967, Hutchings filed a second charge with the EEOC. This charge was based upon the Company's discontinuation of the leadman classification after
Having considered Hutchings's two charges, the EEOC concluded that reasonable cause existed to believe that the Company was in violation of section 703 (a) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a).
In the court below, Hutchings claimed that the Company had discriminated against him in violation of Title VII by refusing to promote him to the position of leadman because of his race on two occasions, first in February 1966 and second, in October 1966. As indicated above, Hutchings had previously unsuccessfully invoked his contractual grievance remedies with respect to both occurrences. In addition to these alleged acts of discrimination, Hutchings claimed that the Company has, since October 1966, continually required him to perform leadman functions without either promoting him or paying him for this additional work. He requested that the District Court order that he be promoted and paid for his loss of wages and that the Company be enjoined from performing further acts of racial discrimination against him.
The District Court granted the Company's motion for a summary judgment in its favor. The Court concluded that Hutchings could not maintain a Title VII action based upon the allegedly unlawful denial of a promotion in October 1966 because Hutchings had not filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC regarding this occurrence within the time prescribed by the statute. Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII, § 706(d), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(d) (90 days). The Court further concluded that Hutchings could not maintain a Title VII action based upon either the October or the February denials of a promotion because Hutchings had, in effect, made a binding election of remedies by pursuing to final determinations the processing of his grievances through the grievance-arbitration machinery established at the Longview Plant. Hutchings could not thereafter, the Court decided, pursue a Title VII remedy based upon the claims already privately concluded adversely to him. See Newman v. Avco Corp., Aerospace Structures Division, M.D. Tenn., 1970, 313 F.Supp. 1069 [Civ. No. 5258, March 26]; Edwards v. North American Rockwell Corp., C.D.Cal., 1968, 291 F.Supp. 199; Washington v. Aerojet-General Corporation, C.D.Cal., 1968, 282 F.Supp. 517.
For reasons that follow, we hold that the Company was not entitled to a judgment in its favor as a matter of law. Under the circumstances of this case, we conclude that the statute of limitations applicable to the filing of charges with the EEOC, Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII, § 706(d), 42 U.S. C. § 2000e-5(d),
The statute of limitations question presented on this appeal is controlled by our recent decision in Culpepper v. Reynolds Metals Company, 5 Cir., 1970, 421 F.2d 888, in which we held that the statute is tolled "once an employee invokes his contractual grievance remedies in a constructive effort to seek a `private settlement of his complaint.'" Id. at 891. Therefore, we need discuss here only whether Hutchings is precluded from maintaining this action under Title VII because he first utilized the Plant's grievance-arbitration machinery to prosecute his rights under the collective bargaining agreement governing the conditions of his employment by the Company. This determination requires that we consider, in the context of the enforcement procedures established by Title VII, the role privately fashioned grievance-arbitration processes are to play in the elimination of racial discrimination in employment.
Racial discrimination in employment affects the individual's ability to provide decently for himself and his family in a job or profession for which he qualifies and which he chooses. Culpepper v. Reynolds Metals Company, 5 Cir., 1970, 421 F.2d 888, 891. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 reflects Congress's concern over the social and economic consequences of such discrimination in employment. Implicit in its provisions is the recognition that economic citizenship is today's passport to political and social citizenship. See Affeldt, Title VII in the Federal Courts, 14 Vill.L.Rev. 664, 665 (1969).
Section 703 (a) of Title VII, makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer (1) to hire, discharge, or interfere in any other way with the terms and conditions of employment of an individual because of that individual's race or (2) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees in any way that would deprive or tend to deprive an individual of employment opportunities or otherwise to affect adversely his status as an employee because of his race. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a) (1)-(2). From a reading of the provisions enacted to effectuate this section, it is clear that Congress placed great emphasis upon private settlement and the elimination of unfair practices without litigation, Oatis v. Crown Zellerbach Corporation, 5 Cir., 1968, 398 F.2d 496, 498, on the ground that voluntary compliance is preferable to court action. Dent v. St. Louis-San Francisco Railway Company, 5 Cir., 1969, 406 F.2d 399, 402. Indeed, it is apparent that the primary role of the EEOC is to seek elimination of unlawful employment practices by informal means leading to voluntary compliance. See Fekete v. United States Steel Corp., 3 Cir., 1970, 424 F.2d 331. Before an individual can initiate an action in federal court under Title VII, he must first have filed a charge with the Commission and then have received statutory notice from the Commission that it has, for whatever reason, been unable to secure voluntary compliance by the employer. Having received the notice, regardless of the EEOC's action or inaction, Miller v. International Paper Company, 5 Cir., 1969, 408 F.2d 283, 291, the individual has perfected his right to seek judicial consideration of his grievance.
Local 53 of Int. Ass'n of Heat & Frost I. & A. Wkrs. v. Vogler, 5 Cir., 1969, 407 F.2d 1047,
Against this backdrop and in the specific context of this case, we consider the function of privately tailored grievance-arbitration procedures in the resolution of employment disputes involving charges of racial discrimination. Two occurrences provide the basis for Hutchings's charge that the Company has committed certain employment practices in violation of section 703(a) of Title VII. These same occurrences provided the basis for the grievances Hutchings prosecuted through the grievance-arbitration machinery at the Longview Plant. The collective bargaining agreement under which these grievances were prosecuted provides that its provisions are to be applied to all employees without regard to their race. Therefore, this is clearly a case in which the matters in dispute were subject to the concurrent jurisdiction of the federal courts under the scheme of Title VII and of the grievance-arbitration machinery established by the bargaining contract. The District Court concluded that Hutchings, by pursuing his contractual remedies to final or "settled" determinations under the bargaining contract, was bound by those adverse determinations in this Title VII action and, accordingly, could not prevail against the Company. We disagree. An arbitration award, whether adverse or favorable to the employee, is not per se conclusive of the determination of Title VII rights by the federal courts, nor is an intermediate grievance determination deemed "settled" under the bargaining contract to be given this effect.
Title VII is silent on the role that private grievance-arbitration procedures under a collective bargaining agreement are to play in the resolution of employment disputes involving racial discrimination. Thus the task of discerning "legislative intent" rests upon the sound application of judicial principles and precedents. Fekete v. United States Steel Corp., 3 Cir., 1970, 424 F.2d 331.
We begin by recognizing that determinations under a contract grievance-arbitration process will involve rights and remedies separate and distinct from those involved in judicial proceedings under Title VII. These dissimilarities are clearly seen through a comparison of the role of the federal court in Title VII cases and the role of the arbitrator in the grievance-arbitration process.
The trial judge in a Title VII case bears a special responsibility in the public interest to resolve the employment dispute, for once the judicial machinery has been set in train, the proceeding takes on a public character in which remedies are devised to vindicate the policies of the Act, not merely to afford private relief to the employee. See Pettway v. American Cast Iron Pipe Company, 5 Cir., 1969, 411 F.2d 998; Bowe v. Colgate-Palmolive Company, 7
The arbitrator's role in the grievance-arbitration process, on the other hand, is to carry out the aims of the agreement that he has been commissioned to interpret and apply, and his role defines the scope of his authority. Brotherhood of Railroad Train. v. Central of Ga. Ry. Co., 5 Cir., 1969, 415 F.2d 403, 412.
United Steelwkrs. of A. v. Enterprise W. & C. Corp., 363 U.S. 593, 597, 80 S.Ct. 1358, 1361, 4 L.Ed.2d 1424 (1960). See also Brotherhood of Railroad Train. v. Central of Ga. Ry. Co., 5 Cir., 1969, 415 F.2d 403; Diamond v. Terminal Railway Alabama State Docks, 5 Cir., 1970, 421 F.2d 228. To merit judicial enforcement, the arbitrator's award "must have a basis that is at least rationally inferable, if not obviously drawn, from the letter or purpose of the collective bargaining agreement," Brotherhood of Railroad Train. v. Central of Ga. Ry. Co., 5 Cir., 1969, 415 F.2d 403, 412, and an award based "solely upon the arbitrator's view of the requirements of enacted legislation [such as Title VII]" exceeds the scope of the submission. United Steelwkrs. of A. v. Enterprise W. & C. Corp., 363 U.S. 593, 597, 80 S.Ct. 1358, 1361, 4 L.Ed.2d 1424 (1960). In the arbitration proceeding, then, the arbitrator's role is to determine the contract rights of the employees, as distinct from the rights afforded them by enacted legislation such as Title VII. The arbitration process is a private one essentially tailored to the needs of the contracting parties, who have agreed upon this method for the final adjustment of disputes under their contract. The arbitrator, in bringing his informed judgment to bear on the problem submitted to him, may consider himself constrained to apply the contract and not give the types of remedies available under Title VII, even though the contract may contain an antidiscrimination provision. Conversely, of course, a court may not be able to delve into all the ramifications of the contract, as viewed under the law of the shop, or to afford some types of relief privately available through arbitration. Bowe v. Colgate-Palmolive Company, 7 Cir., 1969, 416 F.2d 711, 715.
In view of the dissimilarities between the contract grievance-arbitration process and the judicial process under Title VII, it would be fallacious to assume that an employee utilizing
In Culpepper v. Reynolds Metals Company, 5 Cir., 1970, 421 F.2d 888, this Court stated, in holding that the statute of limitations applicable to the filing of charges with the EEOC was tolled once an employee invokes his contractual remedies to seek a private settlement of his complaint,
Id. at 891-892. Culpepper did not reach the issue whether an employee who follows the shop rules without success thereby waives his Title VII remedies, but much of its reasoning is applicable here. We do not think that Congress intended that an employee who unsuccessfully pursues his contractual remedies to conclusion and then files charges with the EEOC is foreclosed from obtaining Title VII relief in court. It is understandable that a union member would first proceed to vindicate any rights he felt he had under the contract. He should not be penalized for so doing, either through the doctrine of election of remedies or through application of rules of res judicata when next he initiates an action under Title VII.
Title VII outlaws certain forms of discrimination in employment. An important method for the fulfillment of congressional purpose is the utilization of private grievance-arbitration procedures. This comports not only with the national labor policy favoring arbitration as the means for the final adjustment of labor disputes, e. g., Boys Markets, Inc. v. Retail Clerk's Union, Local 770, 398 U.S. 235, 90 S.Ct. 1583, 26 L.Ed.2d 199, but also with the specific enforcement policy of Title VII that discrimination is better curtailed through voluntary compliance with the Act than through court orders. Congress, however, has made the federal judiciary, not the EEOC or the private arbitrator, the final arbiter of an individual's Title VII
In this case, we conclude that the District Court erred in holding that Hutchings was bound by the arbitrator's adverse determination regarding the October denial of a promotion and by the settled "third step" determination regarding the February denial. If the doctrine of election of remedies is applicable at all to Title VII cases, it applies only to the extent that the plaintiff is not entitled to duplicate relief in the private and public forums which would result in an unjust enrichment or windfall to him. Bowe v. Colgate-Palmolive Company, 7 Cir., 1969, 416 F.2d 711. Hutchings, of course, has received nothing to date. Since this case involves Hutchings's assertion of his Title VII rights, while the grievance and arbitration proceedings involved his assertion of contract rights, res judicata is inapplicable to this proceeding.
Reversed and remanded.
Virginia Electric & P. Co. v. N.L.R.B., 319 U.S. 533, 539, 63 S.Ct. 1214, 1218, 87 L.Ed. 1568 (1943) (citation omitted).