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MCDONALD ET AL. v. SANTA FE TRAIL TRANSPORTATION CO. ET AL.

June 25, 1976

MCDONALD ET AL
v.
SANTA FE TRAIL TRANSPORTATION CO. ET AL.



CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT

Marshall, Burger, Brennan, Stewart, Blackmun, Powell, Stevens.

Author: Marshall

[ 427 U.S. Page 275]

 MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioners, L. N. McDonald and Raymond L. Laird, brought this action in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas seeking relief against Santa Fe Trail Transportation Co. (Santa Fe) and International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 988 (Local 988), which represented Santa Fe's Houston employees, for alleged violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., in connection with their discharge from Santa Fe's employment. The District Court dismissed the complaint on the pleadings. The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed. In determining whether the decisions of these courts were correct, we must decide, first, whether a complaint alleging that white employees charged with misappropriating property from their employer were dismissed from employment, while a black employee similarly charged was

[ 427 U.S. Page 276]

     not dismissed, states a claim under Title VII. Second, we must decide whether § 1981, which provides that "[a]ll persons... shall have the same right... to make and enforce contracts... as is enjoyed by white citizens..." affords protection from racial discrimination in private employment to white persons as well as nonwhites.

I

Because the District Court dismissed this case on the pleadings, we take as true the material facts alleged in petitioners' complaint. Hospital Bldg. Co. v. Trustees of Rex Hospital, 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976). On September 26, 1970, petitioners, both white, and Charles Jackson, a Negro employee of Santa Fe, were jointly and severally charged with misappropriating 60 one-gallon cans of antifreeze which was part of a shipment Santa Fe was carrying for one of its customers. Six days later, petitioners were fired by Santa Fe, while Jackson was retained. A grievance was promptly filed with Local 988, pursuant to the collective-bargaining agreement between the two respondents, but grievance proceedings secured no relief. The following April, complaints were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charging that Santa Fe had discriminated against both petitioners on the basis of their race in firing them, and that Local 988 had discriminated against McDonald on the basis of his race in failing properly to represent his interests in the grievance proceedings, all in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Agency process proved equally unavailing for petitioners, however, and the EEOC notified them in July 1971 of their right under the Act to initiate a civil action in district court within 30 days. This suit followed, petitioners joining their § 1981 claim to their Title VII allegations.

[ 427 U.S. Page 277]

     Respondents moved to dismiss the complaint, and in June 1974 the District Court issued a final modified opinion and order dismissing petitioners' claims under both Title VII and § 1981. Turning first to the § 1981 claim, the District Court determined that § 1981 is wholly inapplicable to racial discrimination against white persons, and dismissed the claim for want of jurisdiction. Turning then to petitioners' claims under Title VII, the District Court concluded it had no jurisdiction over Laird's Title VII claim against Local 988, because Laird had not filed any charge against Local 988 with the EEOC.*fn1 Respondent Santa Fe additionally contended that petitioners' EEOC charges against it, filed more than 90 days after their discharge, were untimely.*fn2 Apparently relying upon Fifth Circuit authority for the proposition that the 90-day period for filing with the EEOC was tolled during the pendency of grievance proceedings,

[ 427 U.S. Page 278]

     however,*fn3 the District Court concluded that the question of timely filing with the EEOC could not be determined without a hearing on petitioners' allegations that they had not been notified until April 3, 1971, of the termination of the grievance proceedings.*fn4 But the District Court found it unnecessary to hold such a hearing, since it concluded, quite apart from any timeliness problem, that "the dismissal of white employees charged with misappropriating company property while not dismissing a similarly charged Negro employee does not raise a claim upon which Title VII relief may be granted." App. 117.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal, per curiam, 513 F.2d 90 (1975), noting in regard to the Title VII claim asserted: "There is no allegation that the plaintiffs were falsely charged. Disciplinary action for offenses not constituting crimes is not involved in this case." Id., at 90-91. We granted certiorari. 423 U.S. 923 (1975). We reverse.

II

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits the discharge of "any individual" because of "such individual's race," § 703 (a)(1), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2 (a)(1).*fn5 Its terms are not limited to discrimination

[ 427 U.S. Page 279]

     against members of any particular race. Thus, although we were not there confronted with racial discrimination against whites, we described the Act in Griggs v. Duke Power Co., 401 U.S. 424, 431 (1971), as prohibiting "[d]iscriminatory preference for any [racial] group, minority or majority" (emphasis added).*fn6 Similarly the EEOC, whose interpretations are entitled to great deference, id., at 433-434, has consistently interpreted Title VII to proscribe racial discrimination in private employment against whites on the same terms as racial discrimination against nonwhites, holding that to proceed otherwise would S

"constitute a derogation of the Commission's Congressional

[ 427 U.S. Page 280]

     mandate to eliminate all practices which operate to disadvantage the employment opportunities of any group protected by Title VII, including Caucasians." EEOC Decision No. 74-31, 7 FEP 1326, 1328, CCH EEOC Decisions P 6404, p. 4084 (1973)].*fn7

This conclusion is in accord with uncontradicted legislative history to the effect that Title VII was intended to "cover white men and white women and all Americans," 110 Cong. Rec. 2578 (1964) (remarks of Rep. Celler), (1964), and create an "obligation not to discriminate against whites," id., at 7218 (memorandum of Sen. Clark). See also id., at 7213 (memorandum of Sens. Clark and Case); id., at 8912 (remarks of Sen. Williams). We therefore hold today that Title VII prohibits racial discrimination against the white petitioners in this case upon the same standards as would be applicable were they Negroes and Jackson white.*fn8

[ 427 U.S. Page 281]

     Respondents contend that, even though generally applicable to white persons, Title VII affords petitioners no protection in this case, because their dismissal was based upon their commission of a serious criminal offense against their employer. We think this argument is foreclosed ...


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