Argued: March 21, 2019
from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Michigan at Flint. No. 4:16-cv-10585-Linda V.
Parker, District Judge.
M. Carlson, Plymouth, Michigan, for Appellant.
E. Richotte, BUTZEL LONG, P.C., Bloomfield Hills, Michigan,
Jennifer S. Goldstein, UNITED STATES EQUAL EMPLOYMENT
OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Washington, D.C., for Amicus Curiae.
E. Richotte, Brett J. Miller, BUTZEL LONG, P.C., Bloomfield
Hills, Michigan, for Appellee.
Jennifer S. Goldstein, Paul D. Ramshaw, UNITED STATES EQUAL
EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Washington, D.C., for
Barbrie Logan, Detroit, Michigan, pro se.
Before: BOGGS, GIBBONS and BUSH, Circuit Judges.
K. BUSH, CIRCUIT JUDGE
case requires us to determine, as a matter of first
impression, whether the statute of limitations of Title VII
of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, codified at 42 U.S.C.
§§ 2000e et seq., may be contractually shortened
for litigation. Barbrie Logan worked as a cook for MGM Grand
Detroit Casino ("MGM"). As part of her job
application, she agreed to a six-month limitation period to
bring any lawsuit against her employer. After leaving the
job, she sued MGM under Title VII, alleging employment
discrimination. Her former employer asserted a statute of
limitations defense: although Logan arguably brought her
claim within the statutory period required by Title VII, she
waited longer than the limitation period provided in her
employment application. The district court agreed and granted
summary judgment to MGM.
appeal, Logan argues that the contractual limitation period
cannot supersede the statutory limitation period for bringing
suit under Title VII. We agree. The limitation period of
Title VII is part of an elaborate pre-suit process that must
be followed before any litigation may commence. Contractual
alteration of this process abrogates substantive rights and
contravenes Congress's uniform nationwide legal regime
for Title VII lawsuits. Therefore, we
REVERSE the decision of the district court.
began her employment as a culinary utility worker for MGM in
August 2007. In the application process, Logan agreed to a
six-month limitation period as a condition of employment:
I agree that any claim or lawsuit arising out of my
employment with, or my application for employment with, MGM
Grand or any of its subsidiaries must be filed no more than
six (6) months after the date of the employment action that
is the subject of the claim or lawsuit. While I understand
that the statute of limitations for claims arising out of an
employment action may be longer than six (6) months, I agree
to be bound by the six (6) month period of limitations set
forth herein, and I WAIVE ANY STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS TO THE
R. 40-4, PageID 641. After several years working at MGM,
Logan resigned on December 4, 2014. Logan's resignation
was, she alleges, "due to discrimination caused by her
employer" and therefore a constructive discharge. R. 42,
PageID 820. On July 8, 2015-216 days later-Logan filed a
Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against MGM. In the Charge of
Discrimination, Logan alleged that she "was subjected to
different terms and conditions of employment based on [her]
sex . . . and in retaliation for . . . participation in
protected activity." R. 40-17, PageID 779. The EEOC
investigated Logan's allegation and issued her a
right-to-sue letter in November 2015. On February 17,
2016-440 days after resigning-Logan sued MGM for
discrimination under Title VII.
moved for summary judgment, arguing that Logan's
employment agreement required her to commence any action
arising out of her employment within six months and that her
failure to do so barred her claim. The magistrate judge
assigned to the case agreed with MGM and issued a Report and
Recommendation to that effect. The district court adopted the
Report and Recommendation and entered summary judgment in
favor of MGM. Logan timely appealed.
review de novo the district court's decision to grant
summary judgment. Maben v. Thelen, 887 F.3d 252, 258
(6th Cir. 2018). Summary judgment is appropriate if
"there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and
the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Here, there is no dispute as to any
material fact. It is undisputed that Logan agreed to be bound
by a six-month limitation period, and the relevant dates are
not in controversy. This case thus turns on a purely legal
issue: whether a contract can alter the limitation period for
suit established by Title VII.
of this issue turns on consideration of both (1) the detailed
enforcement scheme of Title VII and (2) the national
implications of congressional anti-discrimination policy.
These considerations, discussed in turn below, lead us to
hold that MGM may not enforce the contractual alteration of
the Title VII limitation period.
Enforcement Scheme of Title VII
VII entitles employees to be free from discrimination in the
workplace and gives them a remedy for discrimination that
they might suffer. Title VII is not the only federal statute
that gives a private remedy to Americans who have been
discriminated against in the workplace. However, as explained
below, Title VII is unique among workplace
Title VII employers may not (1) "discriminate against
any individual with respect to his compensation, terms,
conditions, or privileges of employment because of such
individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national
origin, " or (2) "deprive any individual of
employment opportunities . . . because of such
individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national
origin." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). Title VII
enforcement relies on a combination of public and private
action and mandates that the EEOC, the federal agency tasked
with enforcing Title VII, must afford non-compliant employers
the chance to voluntarily cure their violations before Title
VII litigation may be brought against them. See
Occidental Life Ins. Co. of Cal. v. EEOC, 432 U.S. 355,
367–68 (1977) ("When Congress first enacted Title
VII in 1964 it selected '(c)ooperation and voluntary
compliance . . . as the preferred means for achieving'
the goal of equality of employment opportunities."
(alteration in original) (quoting Alexander v. Gardner
Denver Co., 415 U.S. 36, 44 (1974))). Consequently, a
protected individual may not simply sue a recalcitrant
employer under Title VII without having first brought the
dispute before the EEOC for resolution.
EEOC process begins with a "charge" filed by the
victim of discrimination. Generally, the charge must be filed
with the EEOC "within 180 days of the occurrence of the
alleged unlawful employment practice." EEOC v.
Commercial Office Prods. Co., 486 U.S. 107, 110 (1988)
(citing 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)). However, the filing
period may be extended to 300 days in jurisdictions that have
"State or local law prohibiting the unlawful employment
practice alleged, " 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(d), and
"a State or local agency with authority to grant or seek
relief from such practice, " id. §
2000e-5(e)(1). Within such jurisdictions, known as
"deferral jurisdictions, " the 300-day limitation
period applies so long as the complaining employee has
"instituted proceedings with [the applicable] State or
local agency." Id.; 29 C.F.R. § 1601.13.
Michigan, the state where this case arises, is a deferral
jurisdiction, and the Michigan Department of Civil Rights
(MDCR) is the applicable agency in that state for
investigating unlawful employment practices. See 29
C.F.R. § 1601.13.
benefit from the extended limitation period, the complaining
employee must actually "institute proceedings"
with the appropriate state agency. 42 U.S.C. §
2000e-5(e)(1). For the first sixty days after the employee
files her complaint with that agency, it maintains exclusive
jurisdiction over the complaint, unless it terminates the
complaint earlier. Id. § 2000e-5(c). Thus, the
time that the state agency spends with the complaint (up to
sixty days) effectively trims the 300-day limitation period
by that much. Mohasco Corp. v. Silver, 447 U.S. 807,
814 n.16 (1980). This consequence is mitigated by EEOC
"work-sharing agreements" with state and local
agencies, which allow employees in deferral jurisdictions to
gain the benefit of the full 300-day limitation period. 29
C.F.R. § 1601.13(c). Under a work-sharing agreement, if
an employee in a deferral state initially files a charge with
the EEOC, the EEOC may share the charge with the state
agency, which may then "waive the 60-day deferral period
and thus authorize the EEOC to take immediate action . . .
." Comm. Office Prods. Co., 486 U.S. at 121.
Consequently, in a deferral state like Michigan, where the
EEOC has entered into a work-sharing agreement with the MDCR,
the employee will have preserved her claim if within 300 days
of the allegedly discriminatory acts she either (a)
institutes proceedings with the state agency and also then
files the charge with the EEOC, or (b) files only with the
EEOC, which under the work-sharing agreement, refers the
charge to the applicable state agency.
receipt of a charge, the EEOC investigates its allegations.
The EEOC has exclusive jurisdiction over the subject matter
of the charge for 180 days. EEOC v. Frank's Nursery
& Crafts, Inc., 177 F.3d 448, 456 (6th Cir. 1999);
42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1). The EEOC will issue the
complaining employee a right-to-sue letter if the agency
makes one of the following four determinations: (1) where the
EEOC determines that "there is not reasonable cause to
believe that an unlawful employment practice has occurred,
" (2) where the EEOC determines that a violation has
occurred, and that the employer refuses to enter into a
conciliation agreement, and the EEOC decides not to pursue a
civil action against the employer, (3) where the EEOC has
entered into a conciliation agreement but the complaining
employee has not entered into the conciliation agreement, ...