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Best Ohio Employment Discrimination Claims Attorney Answer: Is there a time limit for filing a claim with the EEOC? If I miss an EEOC filing deadline, can I still sue my employer? Is it too late to sue my boss for race discrimination?

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When pursuing a claim for employment discrimination and/or unlawful termination, there are varying statutes of limitations that must be duly accounted for. If a statute of limitations is exceeded prior to the filing of a legal claim with a government agency and/or a court of law, the claims become time-barred. What does that mean? If you miss the deadline in the employment law statute, you are shit out of luck. Note that state of limitations and shit out of luck are both abbrieviated SOL. Statute of limitations are permanent in this way. Our employment discrimination lawyers have blogged about this before. (see How Long Do I Have To Sue My Employer? I Need A Discrimination Lawyer!).

A failure to adhere to an applicable statute of limitations will result in the expired claim[s] being completely and permanently time-barred to the aggrieved employee. Thus, complying with statute of limitations and filing deadlines is supremely important to any legal action. The same holds true for those wishing to file charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), if you choose to go with the EEOC route. (See Should I File With The EEOC Or Should I Get My Own Lawyer? Best Employment Discrimination Law Reply!; Top Employment Law Attorney: Do Not File With The EEOC Without Doing This First; and Age Discrimination Plaintiffs Beware: Filing an EEOC Charge May Prevent You From Filing Your Age Discrimination Claim in Court).

In general, EEOC claimants must file charges of employment discrimination with the EEOC within 180 calendar days from the day on which the alleged employment discrimination occurred. After an EEOC charge has been filed, the EEOC can maintain a claimant’s charge[s] by attempting to reach a settlement with the claimant’s employer, or by filing a lawsuit on behalf of the aggrieved claimant (although that is unlikely as the EEOC’s own 2013 Fiscal and Performance Report reported that the EEOC only pursued 0.13 percent of the claims filed, which calculates to about one claim pursued for every thousand that are filed). In the alternative, if the EEOC determines that there has not been a violation of law, and/or if it simply decides not to further pursue a charge on behalf of a claimant (which is the likely outcome for the great majority of EEOC claimants), it will then issue a Notice-of-Right-to-Sue Letter to the claimant. An EEOC right-to-sue letter is tantamount to being a claimant’s “ticket” into federal court – i.e, after being issued a right-to-sue letter, a claimant may then file any of the rejected and/or unresolved claims as part of a Complaint to be filed in Federal Court. However, and as pertinent to the discussion herein, in most instances where a claimant has been issued an EEOC right-to-sue letter, said claimant has only 90 days from date of receipt of said right-to-sue letter in which to file a complaint as to the remaining and/or unresolved federal employment discrimination law charges.

Thus, there are two useful rules-of-thumb pertaining to statute of limitations and EEOC filings. First, in order to be considered as timely filed, a claimant must bring a charge of employment discrimination within 180 calendar days from the day that alleged discrimination took place; and secondly, if a claimant is issued and           EEOC right-to-sue letter, and if the claimant wishes to further pursue the matter by filing a Complaint in Federal Court, said claimant must file said Federal Court complaint within 90 days from having been issued the EEOC right-to-sue letter.

A recently decided case by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, Carey A. Fortson v. Michelle Carlson, et al., illustrates the importance of the timely filing of EEOC claims as well as the filing of any subsequent Federal Court complaints stemming from the charges filed with the EEOC. Fortson also demonstrates the peril faced by claimants who are either unaware, and/or who fail to comply with applicable statute of limitations, which emphasizes the importance of quickly discussing your case with qualified employment law attorneys as soon as possible.

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The employee in Fortson, a 52–year–old African American male, worked for Columbia Farms for approximately two-and-a-half years – from January 2010 until his employment was ultimately terminated by Columbia Farms on June 27, 2012. Columbia Farms stated reason for terminating Fortson’s employment was because Fortson had been observed sleeping on the job. Despite the reason proffered by Columbia Farms for terminating Fortson’s employment, Fortson felt that he had been unlawfully terminated by Columbia Farms as a result of racial and gender discrimination. As such, on February 12, 2013, Fortson filed charges with the EEOC, which alleged, in pertinent part, that Columbia Farms had violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) by committing acts of racial discrimination, including by having terminated Fortson’s employment.

After filing said EEOC charges against Columbia Farms, the EEOC ultimately declined to pursue Fortson’s alleged claims and issued Fortson a right-to-sue letter. With his right-to-sue letter in hand, Fortson then filed a Complaint against Columbia Farms in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, for, among other things, claims of Title VII gender and race discrimination. In this regard, there is no dispute as to whether Fortson timely filed said Complaint with the Federal District Court within the required 90 day statute of limitations promulgated by the EEOC right-to-sue letter.

However, despite being in compliance with the 90 day filing period proscribed by his EEOC right-to-sue letter, the District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, nevertheless, dismissed Fortson’s Title VII gender and race discrimination claims against Columbia Farms. As provided above, Columbia Farms terminated Fortson’s employment on June 27, 2012, but Fortson did not file the related charges with the EEOC until February 12, 2013. In other words, Fortson did not file his EEOC charges until 231 days after the date on which he had been terminated. As such, it is plainly evident that Fortson failed to file his alleged charges with the EEOC until well in excess of the 180 day EEOC statute of limitations. As such being the case, the District Court for the Middle District of Georgia dismissed Fortson’s Title VII claims against Columbia Farms on the grounds that Fortson’s had failed to initially timely file said Title VII charges with the EEOC within the required 180 day statute of limitations. Fortson then appealed the District Court’s dismissal of his Title VII clams to the United States Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Despite Fortson’s attempts at arguments to the contrary, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals went onto affirm the dismissal Fortson’s Title VII claims as being time-barred by the 180 day EEOC statute of limitations.

Thus, as indicated by the foregoing, employees who are required, and/or who elect to file charges with the EEOC must comply with the EEOC’s 180 day statute of limitations. Even if the EEOC itself fails to realize that a claimant’s EEOC charge[s] should have been barred as being untimely, any subsequent potential Federal Court claims stemming from the EEOC filing will also be subsequently time barred by virtue of the same 180 day EEOC statute of limitations.

Specifically, the Eleventh District Court of Appeals held:

The district court did not err in dismissing Fortson’s Title VII gender and race discrimination claims as time-barred. Fortson did not file his Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) charge until February 12, 2013, more than 180 days after his June 27, 2012 termination, the final adverse employment activity he suffered. See Wilkerson v. Grinnell Corp., 270 F.3d 1314, 1317 (11th Cir. 2001); 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1) (requiring an employee in a non-deferral state such as Georgia to exhaust administrative remedies by filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC within 180 days of the alleged unlawful employment practice).

In his initial appellate brief, Fortson argues, as he did in the district court, that his complaint was timely filed within 90 days of his EEOC right-to-sue letter. This argument is misplaced, however, because Fortson’s Title VII claims are time-barred based on the late filing of his EEOC charge, not based on the timeliness of his complaint with respect to his right-to-sue letter.

Fortson also contends that his EEOC charge must have been timely because the EEOC issued him a right-to-sue letter and did not state that his EEOC charge was untimely filed. The problem for Fortson is his EEOC letter does not address timeliness at all. This is not a case where the EEOC affirmatively stated that the charge was timely. Cf. Ramirez v. Sec’y, U.S. Dep’t of Transp., 686 F.3d 1239, 1250-53 (11th Cir. 2012) (holding that where the EEOC affirmatively determines that a charge is timely filed, and a governmental agency defendant fails to challenge the EEOC finding of timeliness, the defendant and the district court are subsequently bound by that finding). Rather, the EEOC letter does not address that issue and the district court thus did not err in addressing it. Further, the district court correctly found that Fortson’s EEOC charge was not timely filed within 180 days of his termination and therefore his Title VII claims are time-barred.

As demonstrated in Fortson, the determination and application of the proper statute of limitations for each individual claim, whether filed through the EEOC or with an appropriate Federal Court, is not always straightforward.

If you are more that 180 days out from the employment discrimination by your boss and you live in Ohio, do not fear because all is not lost. Race, gender, and national origin discrimination claims have a much longer SOL date under Ohio Revised Code § 4112.01, et al. However, age discrimination claims are also very quick (and have several filing options with different SOL).

To best avoid being time-barred from being able to maintain a Title VII discrimination claim, or any employment related legal claims for that matter, an aggrieved employee who is considering filing a claim with the EEOC, the Courts, or any other appropriate entity or agency should first seek skilled legal counsel. Protecting the claims and rights of employees is the mission of the attorneys of Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm.

If you are searching “I need a lawyer because I have been wrongfully fired or terminated;” or “I have been discriminated against based on my …” race, national origin, gender, age, religion or disability; or even think that you might need an employment lawyer, then it would be best to call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation at 866-797-6040. Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm and its attorneys are experienced and dedicated to protecting employees’ rights and solving employment disputes.


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