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Is Filing an EEOC Charge of Discrimination Required Before Proceeding with a Lawsuit?

2019-06-11

According to the Supreme Court, the answer is no, but with a catch

On June 3, 2019 the U.S. Supreme Court held that an employee may proceed with a federal discrimination lawsuit even if they have not fired filed a charge of discrimination with EEOC.  Under Title VII, an employee must pursue the EEOC’s administrative process before being allowed to sue their employer in federal court. 

The issue presented to the Supreme Court was whether the requirement to “exhaust administrative remedies” is jurisdictional or merely procedural.  The difference is as follows:

  • Jurisdictional means that if the requirement is not met, a court lacks authority to hear the claims at all, or
  • Procedural means that a party would need to raise failure to exhaust administrative remedies as an affirmative defense to liability.
In Fort Bend County v. Lois M. Davis, the County waited years after litigation began to seek dismissal of the employee’s Title VII claim of religious discrimination on the basis that she had not filed a valid charge of discrimination.  

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.