Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Botched EEOC charge can still support age discrimination claim

What happens when your EEOC complaint is filed with the EEOC, without all the correct pages? This happened to Enid Ximines, who sued the New York City Department of Education for age discrimination, only to have the trial court reject her amended complaint because one of its claims was not properly before the EEOC. The Second Circuit reinstated the Complaint.

The case is Ximines v. George Wingate High School, decided on February 20. The plaintiff alleged that from 2002 through 2004 she was denied certain promotions because of her age. The problems was that you cannot bring an Age Discrimination in Employment Act case in Federal court without first filing a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In plaintiff's EEOC charge, the 2004 incident was written on the last page, which for some reason was not filed with the EEOC. The defendants did not receive that allegation in the EEOC charge, either.

The Second Circuit noted that, while the 2004 incident was not part of the EEOC charge, it could still comprise part of the Federal lawsuit if that incident was reasonably related to the charges that were properly filed with the EEOC. This is based on the theory that a proper investigation by EEOC will uncover that allegation even though it's not specifically alleged in the EEOC complaint. There's a long line of cases for this proposition, most recently Williams v. New York City Housing Auth., 458 F.3d 67, 70 (2d Cir. 2006).

As these issues are always decided on a case-by-case basis, the Court of Appeals noted the unique facts here and found for plaintiff, reasoning:

In this case, plaintiff’s Charge of Discrimination, even without the final page, made clear that she complained of age discrimination in several efforts to secure promotion to assistant principal. It referred also to the June 2004 interview for the permanent opening. Moreover, the charge found in the EEOC file readily reveals that a page or more concerning that particular attempt to gain promotion was missing from the document. In consequence, even absent the last page, the charge gave the EEOC adequate notice to investigate the plaintiff’s grievance concerning the September 2004 promotion. We therefore hold that the EEOC charge was sufficient to permit plaintiff to pursue an ADEA claim with respect to the September
2004 failure to promote.

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