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PATTERSON v. NEWSPAPER & MAIL DELIVERERS' UNION

March 28, 1991

JOHN R. PATTERSON, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
NEWSPAPER AND MAIL DELIVERERS' UNION OF NEW YORK AND VICINITY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, PLAINTIFF, V. NEWSPAPER AND MAIL DELIVERERS' UNION OF NEW YORK AND VICINITY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS IN THE MATTER OF PENDING CHARGES FILED WITH THE EEOC AGAINST THE NEW YORK TIMES AND THE DAILY NEWS PURSUANT TO THE TERMS OF THE SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT, U.S.D.C., S.D.N.Y. 73 CIV. 3058 (WCC) AND 73 CIV. 4278 (WCC).



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William C. Conner, District Judge.

OPINION AND ORDER

A class of private plaintiffs and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") brought two civil rights actions in 1973 against the Newspaper and Mail Deliverers' Union of New York and Vicinity ("NMDU" or "Union") and more than fifty publishers and news distributors within the Union's jurisdiction. Both suits charged that the Union, with the acquiescence of the publishers and distributors, had historically discriminated against minorities, and that the structure of the collective bargaining agreement, combined with nepotism and cronyism, had perpetuated the effects of past discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Each lawsuit sought an affirmative action program designed to achieve for minorities the status they would have had in the newspaper delivery industry but for the alleged discriminatory practices.

On September 19, 1974, then-District Judge Lawrence W. Pierce issued an opinion and order approving a settlement between the parties and incorporating the Settlement Agreement in a Consent Decree, familiarity with which is presumed. See Patterson v. Newspaper and Mail Deliverers' Union, 384 F. Supp. 585 (S.D.N.Y. 1974) aff'd, 514 F.2d 767 (2d Cir. 1975), cert. denied, 427 U.S. 911, 96 S.Ct. 3198, 49 L.Ed.2d 1203 (1976). The Settlement Agreement implements an affirmative action program which modifies the hiring procedures for newspaper deliverers under the industry-wide collective bargaining agreement. It also established an Administrator, appointed by the Court, to implement the provisions of the Consent Decree and to supervise its performance. The Settlement Agreement authorizes the Administrator to hear claims concerning violations of the Consent Decree. Appeals from his decisions are heard in this Court.

The action presently before the Court is an appeal from the Administrator's ruling of June 7, 1990. For the reasons set forth below, his ruling is reversed.

BACKGROUND

The New York News (the "News") and NMDU appeal the Administrator's dismissal without prejudice of all charges brought by ten News employees in the proceeding, denominated "Claim 230."*fn1

In August and September of 1986 several New York Times ("Times") employees filed charges of discrimination with the EEOC alleging that both their employer and the NMDU had engaged in discriminatory conduct. In the spring of 1987 a group of News employees also filed with the EEOC charges of discrimination against the NMDU and their employer. Unlike the Times employees, who were pursuing their allegations of discrimination before both the EEOC and the Administrator in Claim 186, the News employees had not brought these claims of discrimination before the Administrator. In the spring of 1988, the Administrator asked the EEOC to produce a list of persons who had filed charges against any defendants in the Patterson case. The EEOC responded on May 18, 1988 with a list that included these Times and News employees, whose charges were then pending. In June 1988, the EEOC dismissed the News claimants' EEOC charges and issued to each a Notice of Right to Sue. Each notice contained the same explanation for the dismissal of the charge: "The court-appointed Administrator of the Consent Decree in Patterson v. NMDU and EEOC v. NMDU has assumed jurisdiction of these cases." Supplemental Record on Appeal ("SOA") at 40-50.

Upon receipt of copies of the right to sue letters from the EEOC, the Administrator called a meeting of the thirteen News and twelve Times employees identified by the EEOC. The purpose of said meeting was to review the charges filed by each of the employees (a) to determine the status of each charge; (b) if settled or moot, to dismiss said charges; (c) if still pending, to determine whether the matter could be dealt with administratively; and (d) if the charge could not be settled, to set a date for trial. At the meeting, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund ("LDF") requested that the Administrator adjourn all matters regarding employees who had received right to sue letters from the EEOC, to afford them an opportunity to file a federal complaint based on those letters. The Administrator thereupon refused to entertain the merits of the grievances and mandated that the parties submit briefs on the proper scope of his jurisdiction.

All but two of the News employees who were included in Claim 230 filed a complaint alleging violations of Title VII in federal court. Stokes, et al. v. The New York News Corp., et al., 89 Civ. 3108 (JFK).*fn2 The Times employees who were included in Claim 230 also filed a Title VII action. Johnson, et al. v. NMDU, et al., 88 Civ. 6789 (WCC).

The News employees who had filed the complaint in Stokes advised the Administrator that they would not be pursuing the matters raised in the federal complaint before him:

  It is not our intention to pursue the matters that are
  raised in our complaint in Federal Court before the
  administrator; . . . the charges that the EEOC had and
  which are the basis of Claim 230 we believe have not
  been submitted to the administrator and we do not
  intend to submit them to the administrator with regard
  to the Daily News.

Record on Appeal ("ROA") at 69.

On June 7, 1990, the Administrator issued the determination in Claim 230 which held that he lacked exclusive jurisdiction over Title VII claims. On that basis, the Administrator dismissed without prejudice all charges in Claim 230 involving minority employees at the News who had brought a Title VII action, with the exception of Daniel Roberts.*fn3 The Administrator also dismissed without prejudice all charges subsumed in Claim 230 of Times employees who had brought a Title VII action except for the charges of those employees who were plaintiffs in Claim 186 and thus were barred from relitigating their claims by the doctrine of res judicata.

The NMDU and the News now appeal the Administrator's dismissal without prejudice of the EEOC charges brought by the ten News employees. The NMDU contends that the Administrator has exclusive jurisdiction over these employees' charges of discrimination because all such claims must be remedied through the Settlement Agreement's enforcement procedures. Unlike the NMDU, the News does not assert that the Administrator has exclusive jurisdiction, but contends, rather, that he must proceed to consider the merits of the charges of the ten News employees. Finally, the News ...


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