On June 3, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court held that first filing a charge with the EEOC is not a jurisdictional requirement for a claimant to pursue her case in federal district court.
Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate on the basis of race, religion, sex, color, or national origin. Typically, an employee who wants to bring a claim against her employer for violating Title VII must first file at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) before she can sue in federal court.
Until the Supreme Court’s decision in Fort Bend County v. Davis, an employee who first failed to go to the EEOC generally would not be permitted to pursue her case in federal court. Now, however, if the employer doesn’t raise the EEOC failure-to-file as a defense, the defense may very well be waived and the case permitted to proceed.
What does this mean for employers? Basically, although the rule stands that an employee must first file at the EEOC, the high court held that the EEOC filing is not jurisdictional. This means it can be waived if the employer doesn’t quickly object to the failure to first file with the EEOC.
What does this mean for attorneys? Legal counsel is well-advised to closely scrutinize a newly-filed Title VII lawsuit as well as the underlying EEOC filing, if any, and to promptly raise any EEOC filing failures or irregularities before the trial court.
If you’re an employer facing a Title VII claim, it’s important to have knowledgeable counsel on your side. Contact us to learn how our experienced attorneys can help you.