Monday, November 22, 2010

File your EEOC charge as soon as possible

Why is the statute of limitations in Title VII cases so complicated? Don't ask me. But here's the rule: you have to file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission within 180 days of the discriminatory practice. But Title VII says that if the discrimination took place in a state with its own human rights agency, you can file the charge of discrimination within 300 days.

If you want to see how the 180-300 day rule can become even more convoluted, read Tewksbury v. Ottaway Newspapers, 192 F.3d 322 (2d Cir. 1999). That case covers the deadlines when the state and federal agencies have a worksharing agreement (New York has one). The courts are still untangling the 180-300 day rule.

The case is Richardson v. Hartford Public Library, a summary order issued on November 9. Richardson filed her EEOC complaint on May 29, 2008. Under Title VII, if your state has its own human rights agency, you have to file with the EEOC within 300 days of the employment decision if you initially filed a charge with the state agency. Under Connecticut law, you have to file with the state agency within 180 days. Richardson did not file anything with the state agency. She went straight to the EEOC, and she did so more than 180 days after the bad employment decision. Under the strict terms of the Connecticut law, she blew the statute of limitations.

Are you still following this? If so, you are a Title VII junkie. The district court in Connecticut dismissed the case as time-barred because Richardson did not file anything with the state agency before running to the EEOC. The Second Circuit (Cabranes, Chin and Underhill [D.J.]) reverses. Under EEOC v. Commercial Office Products, "the 300-day period applies regardless of whether the plaintiff's state law charge was timely, reasoning that a contrary result would 'embroil the EEOC in complicated issues of state law.'" This is good for Richardson. Under Supreme Court and Second Circuit authority, "the 300-day limitations period applies where a plaintiff initially files a Title VII or ADEA discrimination charge with a qualifying state agency, regardless of whether that charge was timely under state law." Richardson's Title VII claim is restored.

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