Employment Discrimination and Retaliation: Scope of EEOC Charge Should be Liberally Construed

There are technical time filing deadlines which require that an EEOC Charge of discrimination be filed within 300 days of a discriminatory event in question and that a Charge detail the facts upon which an employee relies in asserting discrimination. Defendant employers may seek to dismiss certain claims, alleging that an employee has failed to meet these technical requirements, particularly when the factual history of the discrimination covers an extended period of time and when there is an allegation of retaliation after filing a Charge. In a recent case, Smith-Mcillwaine v. Philadelphia Housing Development Corp., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 115072 (E. D. Pa. August 14, 2013) (DuBois, J.), the Court noted that there is a degree of discretion which should be exercised when applying these technical requirements.

In Smith-Mcillwaine, the plaintiff, who was employed for 28 years, most recently as an Environmental Hazards Abatement Inspector, filed an action for gender discrimination and retaliation after her new supervisor assigned her a disproportionate number of energy audits which were more time-consuming and physically demanding than other job duties and she complained about male Inspectors being given preferential treatment in the assignment of overtime and inspections, and that the male Inspectors were using profane and obscene language in the workplace. After filing an internal complaint, the profane and offensive language of the male Inspectors grew worse and the Plaintiff filed an EEOC Charge. Shortly thereafter, the employee received her annual Performance Report and for the first time in her 28 year career, she was rated as “unacceptable.” Plaintiff then filed a second EEOC charge alleging retaliation for filing her previous EEOC charge.

The Defendant sought to dismiss certain claims arguing that plaintiff’s claims concerning disparate treatment in the assignment of overtime and work duties were not included in plaintiff’s EEOC charge. The Court found that the scope of the original charge should be liberally construed and that plaintiff’s claims pertaining to the assignment of overtime and work duties before 2008 may “reasonably be expected to grow out of the charge of discrimination.” The Court also noted that the Third Circuit permits lawsuits based on new acts that occur during the pendency of the case which are fairly within the scope of an EEOC complaint or the investigation growing out of that complaint.

While Cases like Smith-Mcillwaine provide some help in confronting arguments that certain facts or claims should not be permitted when they are not specifically detailed in an EEOC Charge, it is critical that a EEOC Charge detail all claims and relevant facts to avoid any problem when a case is filed in court. As a consequence, we always recommend consulting an experienced employment law attorney as early as possible, even before filing a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC or a Complaint of discrimination with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.

For more information about employment discrimination and Abramson Employment Law see http://www.job-discrimination.com/lawyer-attorney-2119248.html

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Filed under Employment Law, Retaliation

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