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Dillman v. Combustion Engineering Inc.

January 28, 1986

HARRY L. DILLMAN, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
COMBUSTION ENGINEERING, INC., DEFENDANT-APPELLEE



Appeal from a summary judgment entered in the District of Connecticut, Jose A. Cabranes, District Judge, dismissing appellant's age discrimination action as time barred. Affirmed.

Author: Timbers

TIMBERS, Circuit Judge:

Harry L. Dillman ("appellant") appeals from a summary judgment entered January 15, 1985 in the District of Connecticut, Jose A. Cabranes, District Judge, dismissing his age discrimination action against his ex-employer, Combustion Engineering, Inc. ("appellee"), as time barred because of appellant's failure to file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") within the statutory time period. Appellant contends that the district court should have applied either equitable tolling or equitable estoppel to cure appellant's admittedly untimely EEOC filing. We hold that appellant has failed to establish that there is a triable issue of fact with respect to eight the equitable tolling or equitable estoppel claims. We affirm.

I.

We summarize only those facts believed necessary to an understanding of the issues raised on appeal.

Appellant is a 58 year old executive. Appellee is a Delaware corporation with its headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut. Appellant worked for appellee for fifteen years until his termination of January 12, 1982. His last position with appellee was a manager of its Windsor (Conn.) Data Center.

All relevant events occurred in 1982, until appellant's filing of his claim with the connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, referred to below.

On January 12 appellant, then 54, was notified that he was going to be replaced as manager of the Windsor Data Center. Appellee told appellant that he would receive a paid leave of absence for four months and that he should apply for a management position at appellee's plant in New Jersey. Appellant applied for the new position but was turned down on January 27. In February appellee provided appellant with an office, secretary and other "professional outplacement services".

During the Spring of 1982 appellant and appellee engaged in negotiations over what severance benefits appellant should receive. By a letter dated June 1, appellee informed appellant that he would receive half pay until July 30 and then would be placed on leave without pay status until February 1, 1983 when appellant would become eligible for early retirement. Appellant responded with a letter dated June 3, in which he rejected appellee's plans as "unacceptable". Further discussions ensued which culminated in appellee sending appellant another letter dated July 29. This letter offered appellant a choice of either: (1) full pay until July 30, and half pay until September 30, plus "outplacement services"; or (2) full pay until SEptember 30, but no "outplacement services". Both options also allowed appellant to take an unpaid leave of absence until he became eligible for early retirement. Appellant responded by a letter date July 30, in which he chose the second option, but he reserved "any rights that I may have to proceed thereafter with such additional and further action as may be deemed appropriate under the law."

Appellant obtained another job in October. He never applied to appellee for early retirement. On February 10, 1983 appellant filed a claim against appellee with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities alleging age discrimination. The Commission dismissed the claim because it was filed more than 180 days after appellant's termination.

On March 4, 1983 appellant filed a claim with the EEOC claiming that appellee had fired him because of his age. THe EEOC attempted a conciliation, but on July 1, 1983 it notified the parties that the attempted conciliation has failed.

Appellant commenced the instant action in the district court on July 20, 1983. In his complaint appellant alleged that appellee wrongfully had terminated him because of his age in violation of the AGe Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. ยงยง 621-634 (1982). On October 17, 1983 appellee filed a motion to dismiss which, by agreement of the parties, the district court treated as a motion for summary judgment. Appellee asserted that appellant's claim was not timely filed with the EEOC and that the untimely filing barred any civil action in the federal court.

On January 15, 1985 the district court granted summary judgment in favor of appellee. The court held that the action was time barred and refused either to equitably toll the EEOC filing deadline or to equitably estop appellee from asserting the EEOC filing deadline as a defense. This appeal followed.

In the balance of this opinion, we shall outline the relevant statutory provisions of the ADEA, followed by a discussion of appellant's equitable ...


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