For an employee who believes that he or she has been the victim of a wrongful act in the workplace, an important step in a Dallas employment discrimination lawsuit is the filing of a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 days of an alleged unlawful employment practice.
When this does not happen, an employer may be able to have a subsequent claim in state or federal court dismissed due to the plaintiff’s failure to exhaust his or her administrative remedies. Sometimes a claim is filed, but the parties later disagree about whether the plaintiff’s EEOC charge properly put the defendant on notice of his or her allegations.
Facts of the Case
In a recent case, the plaintiff was a bistro manager who alleged that she was the victim of unwanted sexual advances and harassment from the director of dining services at the defendant college. According to the plaintiff, the director touched her inappropriately, made sexual comments to her, kissed her neck, and made lewd comments about her body. She also averred that, after she reported the director’s conduct to the assistant director, she was ordered to close the bistro single-handedly in retaliation for her complaint. She further claimed that, due to her demanding workload, she was hospitalized for high blood pressure and then terminated for insubordination in March 2017.
The plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC in April 2017 and an addendum thereto in July 2017. In filing her paperwork with the EEOC, the plaintiff only checked the boxes indicating that she was claiming race and sex discrimination. However, when she filed suit against the defendant in March 2018, she asserted claims for unlawful employment practices based on sex and for retaliation. The defendant sought partial dismissal of the plaintiff’s case on the grounds that she had failed to exhaust her administrative remedies with the EEOC in regard to her retaliation claim.
Decision of the Court
The United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division, denied the defendant’s motion. First noting that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not require a plaintiff to check a certain box in order to exhaust his or her administrative remedies with the EEOC before filing suit and that a plaintiff is not required to allege a prima facie case before the EEOC, the district court then queried whether the plaintiff’s complaint was “reasonably related” to the allegations in her EEOC charge such that a retaliation charge could reasonably be expected to grow out of the investigation.
The district court concluded that the plaintiff had, in fact, exhausted her administrative remedies with regard to her retaliation claim. Because the plaintiff’s addendum with the EEOC contained allegations that she had reported the director’s behavior and that he had been advised to cease such conduct, he court found that the plaintiff’s complaint for retaliation was reasonably related to the allegations in her EEOC charge.
Have Questions About an Accusation of Retaliation in the Workplace
Defending against an accusation of employment discrimination, retaliatory discharge, or other wrongful conduct in the workplace can be a challenging endeavor. It pays to speak with an experienced Dallas employment litigation attorney about the situation as soon as possible. To schedule a consultation regarding your situation, call Key Harrington Barnes at 214-615-7925.
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