EEOC Time Limit for Filing a Charge of Discrimination
Before a sexual harassment or other discrimination victim can file suit in federal court, they must first file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Federal law says that the discrimination or harassment victim must notify the EEOC of her charge within 180 days of the alleged wrongdoing.
180 days extended to 300 days for FEPA Work Sharing States
Many states have anti-discrimination laws and civil rights agencies responsible for enforcing those laws. The EEOC refers to these agencies as "Fair Employment Practices Agencies (FEPAs)." The EEOC has agreed with most of the state FEPAs to share work and avoid duplication of efforts. These "work sharing agreements" typically state that:
- If a charge is filed with a FEPA and is also covered by federal law, the FEPA "dual files" the charge with EEOC to protect federal rights. The charge usually will be retained by the FEPA for handling.
- If a charge is filed with EEOC and also is covered by state or local law, EEOC "dual files" the charge with the state or local FEPA, but ordinarily retains the charge for handling.
In Berger v. Medina County Ohio Bd. of County Comm'rs, 295 Fed. Appx. 42 (6th Cir. Ohio 2008), the court dismissed a sexual harassment victims Title VII complaint because she failed to allege that Ohio has a work sharing agreement. Since she subsequently failed to amend her complaint to make that allegation or otherwise submit a copy of the work sharing agreement into the record, the Sixth Circuit court of appeals concluded that she had failed to prove that she was entitled to the 300 days filing period.
Berger v. Medina County is a cautionary tale for employees who want to pursue their claims in federal court. Employment law practice, especially at the federal level, is riddled with technicalities and deadlines. In Berger's case, she could have stated a claim by alleging that Ohio entered into a work sharing agreement or filed a copy of the agreement with the court. A question left open by Berger is whether a charge filed with the state agency after the state agency no longer has "the authority to grant or seek relief" is sufficient, if otherwise within 300 days.
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