JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.
The primary question in these cases is whether the statutory time limit for filing charges under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 78 Stat. 253, as amended, 42 U. S. C. § 2000e et seq. (1970 ed.) is a jurisdictional prerequisite to a suit in the District Court. Secondarily, we resolve a dispute as to whether retroactive seniority was a proper remedy in these Title VII cases.
In 1970, the Air Line Stewards and Stewardesses Association (ALSSA), then the collective-bargaining agent of Trans World Airlines (TWA) flight attendants, brought a class action alleging that TWA practiced unlawful sex discrimination in violation of Title VII by its policy of grounding all female flight cabin attendants who became mothers, while their male counterparts who became fathers were permitted to continue flying. After collective bargaining eliminated the challenged practice prospectively, the parties in the case reached a tentative settlement. The settlement, which provided neither backpay nor retroactive seniority, was approved by the District Court. The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, however, found the union to be an inadequate representative of the class because of the inherent conflict between the interests of current and former employees. It remanded the case with instructions that the District Court name individual members of the class to replace ALSSA as the class representative.
Upon remand, petitioners in No. 78-1545 were appointed as class representatives. TWA moved to amend its answer to assert that the claims of plaintiffs and other class members were barred by Title VII's "statute of limitations" because they had failed to file charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within the statutory time
Subsequently, on October 15, 1976, the District Court denied TWA's motion to exclude class members who had not filed timely charges with the EEOC. In support of its motion, TWA argued that instead of an affirmative defense analogous to a statute of limitations, timely filing with the EEOC is a jurisdictional prerequisite not subject to waiver by any action of the defendants. While the District Court agreed that the filing requirements of Title VII are jurisdictional, it denied the motion on the basis that any violation by the airline continued against all the class members until the airline changed the challenged policy. Id., at 131a-132a. On October 19, 1976, the District Court granted the motion of the plaintiff class for summary judgment on the issue of TWA's liability for violating Title VII. Id., at 133a-134a.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the order of October 18, 1976, granting summary judgment on liability, expressly holding that "TWA's no motherhood policy . . . provides a clear example of sex discrimination prohibited by § 2000e-2(a)." In re Consolidated Pretrial Proceedings in the Airline Cases, 582 F.2d 1142, 1145 (1978). It declined, however, "to extend the continuing violation theory, as did the district court, so as to include in the plaintiff class those employees who were permanently terminated more than 90 days before the filing of EEOC charges." Id., at 1149.
The Court of Appeals went on to hold that timely filing of EEOC charges was a jurisdictional prerequisite. Because TWA could not waive the timely-filing requirement, the
In connection with the settlement proceedings, the District Court designated two subclasses. Subclass A, consisting of some 30 women, comprised those who were terminated on or after March 2, 1970, as well as those who were discharged earlier, but who had accepted reinstatement in ground duty positions. Subclass B, numbering some 400 women, covered all other members of the class and consisted of those whose claims the Court of Appeals had found to be jurisdictionally barred for failure to satisfy the timely-filing requirement. 2 App. 3.
The proposed settlement divided $3 million between the two groups. It also provided each class member with full company and union seniority from the date of termination. The agreement specified that "in the event of the timely objection of any interested person, it is agreed that the amount of seniority and credit for length of service for the compensation period will be determined by the Court in its discretion, pursuant to the provisions of Section 706(g), and all other applicable provisions of law, without contest or objection by TWA."
The union appealed. It argued that, because of the Court of Appeals' earlier opinion, the District Court lacked jurisdiction to approve the settlement or to order retroactive seniority with respect to Subclass B. The Court of Appeals affirmed, reasoning that "the principles favoring settlement of class action lawsuits remain the same regardless of whether the disputed legal issues center on the jurisdiction of the court over the action." Air Line Stewards and Stewardesses Assn. v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 630 F.2d 1164, 1169 (1980). It further explained that the question of jurisdiction as to Subclass B had not been finally determined because a challenge to its decision was pending before this Court and observed that the Courts of Appeals were split on the issue. The Court of Appeals noted that the District Court clearly had subject-matter jurisdiction over the claims of Subclass A. It concluded: "Where, as here, the jurisdictional question is not settled with finality, parties should not be forced to litigate the issue of jurisdiction if they can arrive at a settlement
The Court of Appeals also affirmed the award of seniority. According to the court, the settlement served the public policy of remedying past acts of sex discrimination and the consequences of those past acts. Moreover, "[t]he right to have its objections heard does not, of course, give the intervenor the right to block any settlement to which it objects." Ibid.
The union petitioned for certiorari, No. 80-951. We granted its petition together with the petitions in No. 78-1545 and No. 78-1549, 450 U.S. 979 (1981), but later removed the TWA case, No. 78-1549,
The single question in No. 78-1545 is whether the timely filing of an EEOC charge is a jurisdictional prerequisite to bringing a Title VII suit in federal court or whether the requirement is subject to waiver and estoppel. In reaching its decision that the requirement is jurisdictional, the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit relied on its reading of the statutory language, the absence of any indication to the contrary
We hold that filing a timely charge of discrimination with the EEOC is not a jurisdictional prerequisite to suit in federal court, but a requirement that, like a statute of limitations, is subject to waiver, estoppel, and equitable tolling.
The provision granting district courts jurisdiction under Title VII, 42 U. S. C. §§ 2000e-5(e) and (f), does not limit jurisdiction to those cases in which there has been a timely filing with the EEOC.
Although subsequent legislative history is not dispositive, see Seatrain Shipbuilding Corp. v. Shell Oil Co., 444 U.S. 572, 596 (1980); Cannon v. University of Chicago, 441 U.S. 677, 686, n. 7 (1979), the legislative history of the 1972 amendments also indicates that Congress intended the filing period to operate as a statute of limitations instead of a jurisdictional requirement. In the final Conference Committee section-by-section analysis of H. R. 1746, The Equal Opportunity Act of 1972, 118 Cong. Rec. 7166, 7167 (1972), the Committee not only termed the filing period a "time limitation," but explained:
This result is entirely consistent with prior case law. Although our cases contain scattered references to the timely-filing requirement as jurisdictional, the legal character of the requirement was not at issue in those cases, and as or more often in the same or other cases, we have referred to the provision as a limitations statute.
In Love v. Pullman Co., 404 U.S. 522 (1972), we announced a guiding principle for construing the provisions of Title VII. Declining to read literally another filing provision of Title VII, we explained that a technical reading would be "particularly inappropriate in a statutory scheme in which laymen, unassisted by trained lawyers, initiate the process." Id., at 527. That principle must be applied here as well.
The reasoning of other cases assumes that the filing requirement is not jurisdictional. In Electrical Workers v. Robbins & Myers, Inc., 429 U.S. 229 (1976), we rejected the argument that the timely-filing requirement should be tolled because the plaintiff had been pursuing a grievance procedure set up in the collective-bargaining agreement. We did not reach this decision on the basis that the 180-day period was jurisdictional. Instead, we considered the merits of a series of arguments that grievance procedures should toll the requirement. Such reasoning would have been gratuitous if the filing requirement were a jurisdictional prerequisite.
By holding compliance with the filing period to be not a jurisdictional prerequisite to filing a Title VII suit, but a requirement subject to waiver as well as tolling when equity so requires, we honor the remedial purpose of the legislation as a whole without negating the particular purpose of the filing requirement, to give prompt notice to the employer.
We therefore reverse the Court of Appeals in No. 78-1545.
In No. 80-951, the union challenges on several grounds the District Court's authority to award, over the union's objection, retroactive seniority to the members of Subclass B. We have already rejected the union's first contention, namely, that the District Court had no jurisdiction to award relief to those who had not complied with Title VII's filing requirement. The union also contends that in any event there has been no finding of discrimination with respect to Subclass B members and that the predicate for relief under § 706(g) is therefore missing. This contention is also without merit.
The District Court unquestionably found an unlawful discrimination against the plaintiff class, and the class at that
Equally meritless is the union's contention that retroactive seniority contrary to the collective-bargaining agreement should not be awarded over the objection of a union that has not itself been found guilty of discrimination. In Franks v. Bowman Transportation Co., 424 U. S., at 764, we read the legislative history of Title VII as giving
While recognizing that backpay was the only remedy specifically mentioned in the provision, we reasoned that adequate relief might be denied without a seniority remedy. We concluded that the class-based seniority relief for identifiable victims
In Franks, the District Court had found both that the employer had engaged in discrimination and that the discriminatory practices were perpetuated in the collective-bargaining agreements with the unions. 424 U. S., at 751. Teamsters v. United States, 431 U.S. 324 (1977), however, makes it clear that once there has been a finding of discrimination by the employer, an award of retroactive seniority is appropriate even if there is no finding that the union has also illegally discriminated. In Teamsters, the parties agreed to a decree which provided that the District Court would decide "whether any discriminatees should be awarded additional equitable relief such as retroactive seniority." Id., at 331, n. 4. Although we held that the union had not violated Title VII by agreeing to and maintaining the seniority system, we nonetheless directed the union to remain in the litigation as a defendant so that full relief could be awarded the victims of the employer's post-Act discrimination. Id., at 356, n. 43.
In resolving the seniority issue, the District Court gave the union all the process that was due it under Title VII in our cases. The union was allowed to intervene. The District Court heard its objections, made appropriate findings, and determined that retroactive seniority should be awarded. The Court of Appeals agreed with that determination, and
Accordingly, the judgment in No. 78-1545 is reversed and the judgment in No. 80-951 is affirmed.
JUSTICE STEVENS took no part in the consideration or decision of these cases.
JUSTICE POWELL, with whom THE CHIEF JUSTICE and JUSTICE REHNQUIST join, concurring in No. 78-1545 and concurring in the judgment in No. 80-951.
The above cases arise out of the same protracted controversy, and the Court disposes of them in a single opinion. The only question in No. 78-1545 is whether the timely filing of an EEOC charge is a jurisdictional prerequisite to bringing a Title VII suit. I agree that timely filing is not jurisdictional and is subject to waiver and estoppel. Accordingly, I join Parts I and II of the Court's opinion.
I join only the judgment in No. 80-951. My concern with the Court's opinion is that it does not make clear that a timely charge, as well as a violation of Title VII, is a prerequisite to disturbing rights under a bona fide seniority system protected by § 703(h), 42 U. S. C. § 2000e-2(h).
As noted in the Court's opinion, ante, at 398-399, the District Court's order finding classwide discrimination is now final. The District Court also entered an order finding that timely charges had been filed for all class members, and that order is similarly final. The timely-charge order was entered on October 15, 1976, three days before the entry of the order finding classwide discrimination. These orders were consolidated on appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Although the October 18th order, finding discrimination, was affirmed, the Court of Appeals vacated the other order, holding that the members of Subclass B had failed to meet the jurisdictional requirements of Title VII because they had not filed timely claims. No District Court order was ever actually vacated because, on the motion of the parties, the Court of Appeals stayed its mandate, and the parties then reached a settlement. Today, the Court reverses that portion of the Court of Appeals' judgment that would have vacated the October 15th order. As a result, both the October 15th and October 18th orders, finding timely charges and classwide discrimination, are now final.
"If the court finds that the respondent has intentionally engaged in or is intentionally engaging in an unlawful employment practice charged in the complaint, the court may enjoin the respondent from engaging in such unlawful employment practice, and order such affirmative action as may be appropriate, which may include, but is not limited to, reinstatement or hiring of employees, with or without back pay . . . , or any other equitable relief as the court deems appropriate. . . ."
"[D]istrict courts should take as their starting point the presumption in favor of rightful-place seniority relief, and proceed with further legal analysis from that point; and . . . such relief may not be denied on the abstract basis of adverse impact upon interests of other employees but rather only on the basis of unusual adverse impact arising from facts and circumstances that would not be generally found in Title VII cases."
"Each United States district court and each United States court of a place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States shall have jurisdiction of actions brought under this subchapter. Such an action may be brought in any judicial district in the State in which the unlawful employment practice is alleged to have been committed, in the judicial district in which the employment records relevant to such practice are maintained and administered, or in the judicial district in which the aggrieved person would have worked but for the alleged unlawful employment practice, but if the respondent is not found within any such district, such an action may be brought within the judicial district in which the respondent has his principal office. . . ."
Moreover, when Congress in 1978 revised the filing requirement of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 81 Stat. 602, 29 U. S. C. § 621 et seq. (1976 ed. and Supp. V), which was modeled after Title VII, see Oscar Mayer & Co. v. Evans, 441 U.S. 750 (1979), the House Conference Report explicitly stated that "the `charge' requirement is not a jurisdictional prerequisite to maintaining an action under the ADEA and that therefore equitable modification for failing to file within the time period will be available to plaintiffs under this Act." H. R. Conf. Rep. No. 95-950, p. 12.
"The trend of the Supreme Court cases is also significant. In the early cases, the Court in dicta referred to such time provisions using the label `jurisdictional prerequisite.' McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 . . . (1973); Alexander v. Gardner-Denver Co., 415 U.S. 36 . . . (1974). In the 1976 Robbins & Myers decision the jurisdictional label was used once, but there were numerous references to `tolling the limitations period,' 429 U. S. at 239, . . . and other labels obviously referring to a statute of limitations, as opposed to subject matter jurisdiction. See also United Air Lines v. Evans, 431 U.S. 553 . . . (1977), in which both labels are used. From and after late 1977, all nine justices have concurred in opinions containing dicta using the limitations label to the exclusion of the jurisdictional label. Occidental Life Insurance Company v. EEOC, 432 U.S. 355, 371-72 . . . (1977); United Air Lines, Inc. v. McDonald, 432 U.S. 385, 391-92 . . . (1977); Mohasco Corp. v. Silver, 447 U.S. 807, 818-823 . . . (1980), Delaware State College v. Ricks,  U. S.  . . . (1980)."