EEOC issued a Right To Sue Letter until the plaintiff requested one. Moreover, in this case, there is no evidence, testimonial or documentary, to indicate that the plaintiff received any communication from the EEOC once he filed a Complaint with the State Division, although the EEOC deemed the plaintiff's Title VII charge filed upon the plaintiff's filing of a claim with the State Division and the State Division issued a finding of probable cause in 1978.
Particularly in light of the fact that plaintiff was proceeding pro se at that time, and recognizing Title VII's generally complex and comprehensive administrative scheme, this Court does not find the plaintiff's delay so unreasonable under the facts in this case so as to bar his claim under the doctrine of laches.
This Court is aware of authority holding a plaintiff's Title VII claim barred by a laches defense where the plaintiff delayed filing suit in federal court.
For example, in Garrett v. General Motors Corp., 844 F.2d 559 (8th Cir. 1988), cert. denied, 488 U.S. 908, 109 S. Ct. 259, 102 L. Ed. 2d 248 (1988), the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's holding that laches barred plaintiff's Title VII claim. In that case, plaintiff obtained a Right To Sue letter, by request, approximately 14 years after he filed a Title VII charge with the EEOC. Although, as in this case, the EEOC failed to issue any determination on the plaintiff's claim to the plaintiff, the Court found that the plaintiff's attempts to contact the EEOC during the fourteen year period were minimal and that he did not actively pursue his claim. Similarly in Jeffries v. Chicago Transit Authority, 770 F.2d 676 (7th Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 475 U.S. 1050, 106 S. Ct. 1273, 89 L. Ed. 2d 581 (1986), the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's holding that laches barred plaintiff's Title VII claim. In that case the EEOC issued a Right To Sue Letter ten years after the plaintiff filed his Title VII charge. The district court found that the plaintiff took no action with respect to his charge for nine of the ten years.
Unlike Garrett and Jeffries, in this case there is absolutely no evidence before this Court to indicate what efforts, if any, the plaintiff undertook to pursue his Title VII claim with the EEOC. Therefore, this Court cannot find, as did the Courts in those cases, the plaintiff simply did nothing for an extended period time. Additionally, in Jeffries, the plaintiff was represented by counsel during his state administrative proceedings, unlike the plaintiff here. It is unclear if the Garrett plaintiff proceeded pro se.
However, even had the Union shown that the plaintiff unreasonably delayed filing this lawsuit, Local 41 must still demonstrate that it suffered prejudice as a result of the delay. Local 41 has made no specific showing at trial with respect to its claimed prejudice. This Court assumes that Local 41, in accordance with its pretrial memorandum, is arguing that witnesses and evidence became unavailable over time. Several individuals employed by Local 41 and involved in events relevant to this lawsuit, who may have testified as defenses witnesses at trial, are now dead. Arguably, these individuals might have been key witnesses for the defense. However, there were several other available witnesses which Local 41 listed on its pretrial statement but did not call to testify at trial, including former officials of Local 41's examining board and one of the plaintiff's classroom instructors.
Additionally, although Local 41 did produce several Journeyman's examinations of Second Cycle trainees, Local 41 no longer had available the Journeyman Electrician examinations of apprentices for the same period. Local 41 cannot reasonably argue that it has suffered prejudice due to the unavailability of the apprentice examinations, because, in this Court's view, due to their absence the plaintiff was unable to prove much of his case. Local 41 has not demonstrated the unavailability of any other evidence.
Therefore, this Court holds that the plaintiff's recovery is not barred by the doctrine of laches.
For the reasons set forth above, this Court holds that the defendant, Local 41 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, discriminated against the plaintiff, Solomon Myree, Sr., because of his race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
IT HEREBY IS ORDERED, that this Court holds that the defendant discriminated against the plaintiff because of his race, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C §§ 2000e et seq.
FURTHER, that this Court shall discuss the issue of damages at a status conference scheduled for March 12, 1992 at 9:30 a.m. in Part IV, Mahoney State Office Building, 65 Court Street, Buffalo, New York.
Dated: March 6, 1992
Buffalo, New York
WILLIAM M. SKRETNY
United States District Judge