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Great American Fed. Sav. & Loan Assn. v. Novotny, 442 U.S. 366 (1979)

Great American Federal Savings & Loan Association v. Novotny

No. 78-753

Argued April 18, 1979

Decided June 11, 1979

442 U.S. 366


After respondent, a former officer, director, and loan officer of petitioner Great American Federal Savings and Loan Association (Association) received a right-to-sue letter upon filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he brought this suit against the Association and its directors in Federal District Court, alleging that the Association had intentionally embarked upon a course of conduct the effect of which was to deny to female employees equal employment opportunity; that, when respondent expressed support for the female employees at a meeting of the board of directors, his connection with the Association abruptly ended; and that his support for the female employees was the cause of the termination of his employment. Respondent claimed damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) (1976 ed., Supp. II), contending that he had been injured as the result of a conspiracy to deprive him of equal protection of, and equal privileges and immunities under, the laws. Section 1985(3) provides, inter alia, that a person so injured may have an action for damages against any one or more of the conspirators. The District Court granted petitioners' motion to dismiss, holding that § 1985(3) could not be invoked because the directors of a single corporation cannot, as a matter of law and fact, engage in a conspiracy. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that conspiracies motivated by an invidious animus against women fall within § 1985(3), and that respondent, a male allegedly injured as a result of such a conspiracy, has standing to bring suit under that provision. The court further ruled that Title VII can be the source of a right asserted in a § 1985(3) action, and that intracorporate conspiracies come within the intendment of the section.

Held: Section 1985(3) may not be invoked to redress violations of Title VII. It creates no substantive rights itself, but is a purely remedial statute, providing a civil cause of action when some otherwise defined federal right -- to equal protection of the laws or equal privileges and immunities under the laws -- is breached by a conspiracy in the manner defined by the section. Thus, the question in this case is whether rights created by Title VII -- respondent alleged that he was injured

Page 442 U. S. 367

by a conspiracy to violate § 704(a) of Title VII, which makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discriminate against an employee because he has opposed any employment practice made unlawful by Title VII or because he has participated in an investigation or proceeding under Title VII -- may be asserted within the remedial framework of § 1985(3). If a violation of Title VII could be asserted through § 1985(3), a complainant could avoid most if not all of the detailed and specific provisions of Title VII, which provides a comprehensive plan of administrative and judicial process designed to provide an opportunity for nonjudicial and nonadversary resolution of claims. Perhaps most importantly, the complainant could completely bypass the administrative process, which plays such a crucial role in the scheme established by Congress in Title VII. Unimpaired effectiveness can be given to the plan of Title VII only by holding that deprivation of a right created by Title VII cannot be the basis for a cause of action under § 1985(3). Cf. Brown v. GSA, 425 U. S. 820. Pp. 442 U. S. 370-378.

584 F.2d 1235, vacated and remanded.

STEWART, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and BLACKMUN, POWELL, REHNQUIST, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. POWELL, J., post, p. 442 U. S. 378, and STEVENS, J., post, p. 442 U. S. 381, filed concurring opinions. WHITE, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 442 U. S. 385.

Page 442 U. S. 368

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