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Court Clarifies EEOC Charge Filing Timelines and Eligibility for Damages in Pattern or Practice violations

2018-07-23

Continuing violation pattern or practice exceptions can extend Section 706’s 300-day charge filing requirements

Facts of the case

Plaintiff, Wilbert Glover, applied for a drilling position with Horizontal Well Drillers (“HWD”) on January 11, 2013.  Between January 1, 2012 and June 30, 2014 HWD required applicants to submit information on age, family and personal health history, doctors’ care status, prescription drug use, other health information and workers’ compensation histories.   Mr. Glover passed the health and background screenings and during his new hire medical exam performed by an HWD doctor, was deemed to be medically qualified to perform the job.  However, shortly thereafter he was terminated because of high blood pressure.

On April 1, 2013, Mr. Glover filed a charge with EEOC alleging that his termination violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).  During its investigation, EEOC expanded the scope to include all applicants hired and not hired between January 1, 2012 and June 30, 2014. 

EEOC found reasonable cause to believe that HWD violated the ADA, GINA, Title VII, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).   EEOC proceeded to file a class action lawsuit against HWD alleging:

  • a pattern or practice of discriminatory failure to hire in violation of the ADEA and ADA; and
  • unlawful disability inquiry in conducting workers’ compensation background checks and post-hire medical exam, in violation of the ADA.
Mr. Glover intervened as a party of the lawsuit, alleging claims under the ADA and GINA.

HWD’s Arguments

HWD filed a motion to dismiss on several grounds, one of which was based on Section 706 of Title VII, which is followed by the ADA and ADEA, and states that a charge of discrimination shall be filed within 300 days after the alleged unlawful employment practice has occurred.  HWD argued that this 300-day charge filing limitation period should bar recovery for putative class members who allege ADA failures to hire before June 5, 2012 and for putative class members who alleged ADEA failures to hire before February 7, 2014.

EEOC’s Arguments

EEOC opposed HWD’s position and alleged a “pattern or practice” of discrimination on behalf of aggrieved individuals and claimed that because it was a continuing violation, the 300-day cutoff did not apply.   Under the “continuing violation” doctrine, individuals who experienced discrimination prior to the 300-day cutoff could still obtain relief through the EEOC’s claim if part of the violation occurred within the 300-day window.

Court’s conclusions – all in favor of the EEOC
  1. Held that EEOC could use a pattern or practice theory to recover on behalf of aggrieved individuals under both Section 706 and 707 of Title VII.
  2. Agreed with EEOC that the continuing violation exception can extend Section 706’s timely filing requirement for pattern-or-practice claims.
  3. Even before determining if EEOC met its burden of proving that the company’s conduct was a continuing violation, it decided that EEOC’s claim survived the company’s motion to dismiss.
As a result of this decision, employers may be exposed to a broader range of relief, including compensatory and punitive damages, for pattern and practices suits brought by the EEOC. 

The foregoing has been prepared for the general information of clients and friends of Workplace Dynamics LLC and is not being represented as being all-inclusive or complete. It has been abridged from legislation, administrative ruling, agency directives, and other information provided by the government. It is not meant to provide legal advice with respect to any specific matter and should not be acted upon without professional counsel.