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Bihler v. Singer Co.

June 20, 1983

ROBERT BIHLER, APPELLANT
v.
THE SINGER COMPANY, APPELLEE



ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY (D.C. Civil No. 81-4062)

Author: Becker

Before: ADAMS, WEIS and BECKER, Circuit Judges

BECKER, Circuit Judge.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621-634 (1976 & Supp. V 1982), provides a federal cause of action for individuals who have been discriminated against on the basis of their age. Because primary responsibility for enforcement of the ADEA rests with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"),*fn1 the ADEA requires that prospective plaintiffs provide the EEOC with an opportunity to resolve the dispute without recourse to litigation before proceeding on their own. To this end, section 626(d) requires:

No civil action may be commenced by an individual under this section until 60 days after a charge alleging unlawful discrimination has been filed with the [EEOC]. Such a charge shall be filed... within 300 days after the unlawful practice occurred.

Upon receiving such a charge, the [EEOC] shall promptly notify all persons named in such charge as prospective defendants in the action and shall promptly seek to eliminate any alleged unlawful practice by informal methods of conciliation, conference, and persuasion.

Id. § 626(d).*fn2

In this case, appellant sent his employer a letter accusing the employer of age discrimination and threatening legal action if the company failed to redress his grievance. Appellant also sent a copy of this letter to the EEOC but had no further contact with the agency prior to filing this action. The district court determined that appellant had failed to file a charge with the EEOC and therefore dismissed the complaint. Bihler v. Singer Co., No. 81-4062 (D.N.J. June 21, 1982). We will affirm.

I.

Appellant Robert Bihler began his employment with appellee Singer Company in 1941. On March 7, 1980, Singer notified Bihler that his services would not be required after March 31, 1980. Bihler did in fact leave Singer's employ on that date, although he continued to draw severance pay until January 1981.

On December 23, 1980, acting upon the advice of counsel, Bihler sent a letter to Singer alleging that his dismissal violated state and federal laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of age. The letter, copies of which Bihler sent to the EEOC and the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, stated:

The Singer Company, 150 Totowa Road, Wayne, N.J. 07470

Att: Manager, Employee Relations

Re: Mr. Robert E. Bihler, Illegal Termination ...


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