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AUTREY v. POTLATCH CORP.

August 18, 1992

LAURA AUTREY, RITA SCHROEDER, Plaintiffs,
v.
POTLATCH CORPORATION, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SAUNDRA BROWN ARMSTRONG

 I

 BACKGROUND

 On October 10, 1989, plaintiffs Laura Autrey ("Autrey") and Rita Schroeder ("Schroeder") filed a gender discrimination action against defendant Potlatch Corporation ("Potlatch") pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as California Government Code § 124940 et seq., Article I, Section 8 of the California Constitution, and California Civil Code § 51.7. Since the filing of this action, Autrey has settled her case with Potlatch and now seeks leave to amend the complaint to reflect the dismissal of her allegations and claims against defendant. Schroeder also seeks leave to amend the complaint in order to add a demand for compensatory and punitive damages, pursuant to sections 102(a) and (b) of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 ("the 1991 Act"), in her Title VII claim. *fn1"

 Although defendant does not oppose plaintiffs' desire to remove Laura Autrey as a party to this litigation, it does oppose the retroactive application of the 1991 Act to this action. Defendant argues that the 1991 Act is only to be applied prospectively, and therefore, the Court should not allow Schroeder to add a prayer for compensatory and punitive damages in her Title VII claim. Consequently, the issue before this Court is whether section 102 of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 applies retroactively to cases pending at the time of its enactment on November 21, 1991. For the reasons set forth below, the Court concludes that the 1991 Act is to be applied prospectively, and therefore, grants plaintiffs partial leave to amend their complaint. *fn2"

  II

 DISCUSSION

 A. Statutory Interpretation

 "The starting point for interpretation of a statute 'is the language of the statute itself. Absent a clearly expressed legislative intention to the contrary, that language must ordinarily be regarded as conclusive.'" Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp. v. Bonjorno, 494 U.S. 827, 835, 108 L. Ed. 2d 842, 110 S. Ct. 1570 (1990) (quoting Consumer Prod. Safety Comm'n v. GTE Sylvania, 447 U.S. 102, 108, 64 L. Ed. 2d 766, 100 S. Ct. 2051 (1980)). In the present case, the language of the 1991 Act does not specifically resolve the question of retroactivity. Section 402(a) of the 1991 Act merely states that, "except as otherwise specifically provided, this Act and the amendments made by this Act shall take effect upon enactment." The fact that the 1991 Act becomes effective on the date of its enactment provides no guidance as to whether the 1991 Act applies to pending cases. Indeed, this provision is susceptible to several interpretations. As the Sixth Circuit noted:

 [This clause] could be construed to mean either that the Act should be applied to any charge or case pending on or after the date of enactment, or that it should be applied only to conduct occurring after that date.

 Vogel v. City of Cincinnati, 959 F.2d 594, 598 (9th Cir. 1992). Consequently, the ambiguous language in section 402(a) provides no direction to this Court on whether to apply the 1991 Act retroactively or prospectively.

 Nonetheless, in interpreting the 1991 Act, some courts have inferred from sections 402(b) and 109(c) that the 1991 Act should be applied retroactively. See, e.g., Stender v. Lucky Stores, Inc., 780 F. Supp. 1302, 1303-04 (N.D. Cal. 1992); Sanders v. Culinary Workers Union Local No. 226, 783 F. Supp. 531, 537 (D. Nev. 1992). Section 402(b) declares:

 Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, nothing in this Act shall apply to any disparate impact case for which a complaint was filed before March 1, 1975 and for which an initial decision was rendered after October 30, 1983.

 In addition, section 109(c) provides:

 The amendments made by this section shall not apply with respect to conduct occurring before the date of ...


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