Before filing an employment discrimination claim based on race, religion, gender/sex (which includes pregnancy, gender identity, sexual orientation), age, national origin, or disability, employees are required to file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). Our workplace discrimination lawyers have talked frequently about the substantive problems arise when employees try to go it alone through the EEOC. (Best Law Read: Don’t File With The EEOC On Your Own; It’s Bad To File With The EEOC Without A Lawyer; The EEOC Will Not Help You Properly Fill Out The Charging Form; Read This Before Filing An EEOC Charge).
Today, we are focusing again on the statute issues. (Best Law Read: What Is The Statute Of Limitations For A Title VII Claim?). The same statute of limitations applies to claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”).
How much time do I have to file a charge with the EEOC after I was wrongfully fired?
Best Employment Discrimination Lawyer Answer: Whether it be a wrongful termination or any other adverse employment action, employees have 180 days to properly file a charge with the EEOC, but that may be extended to 300 days if the state where the claim would properly be brought has a state or local agency that enforces employment discrimination laws on the same basis, i.e., gender, race, age, national orientation, etc. So, for example, because Ohio has state anti-discrimination laws enforced by the Ohio Civil Rights Commissions, the EEOC charge filing deadline is 300 days. On the other hand, North Carolina does not, so the EEOC charge filing deadline is 180 days. Importantly, all references to days means calendar days, including weekends.
Recently, in Hearn v. Town of Oak Island, No. 21-1598, 2022 WL 7935994, (4th Cir. Oct. 14, 2022), the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit address this exact issue regarding Christina Hearn’s sex and gender discrimination claims under Title VII. Because the claims against the Town of Oak Island occurred in North Carolina, Hearn had only 180 days to file the charge. She did not. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the dismissal, holding:
Under Title VII, an aggrieved individual must file a complaint with the EEOC “within  days after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e). This “exhaustion requirement is a non-jurisdictional ‘processing rule, albeit a mandatory one’ that must be enforced when properly raised.” Walton v. Harker, 33 F.4th 165, 175 (4th Cir. 2022) (quoting Fort Bend Cnty. v. Davis, 139 S. Ct. 1843, 1851 (2019)).
Here, the 180-day period commenced when Hearn first received “final and unequivocal” notice of her termination. English v. Whitfield, 858 F.2d 957, 961-62 (4th Cir. 1988); see, e.g., Green v. Brennan, 578 U.S. 547, 564 (2016); Del. State Coll. v. Ricks, 449 U.S. 250, 258 (1980); Price v. Litton Bus. Sys., Inc., 694 F.2d 963, 965 (4th Cir. 1982). After reviewing the record, we agree with the district court that Hearn received final and unequivocal notice of her termination during the meeting on July 30, 2019. And, because Hearn filed her charge with the EEOC more than 180 days later, we affirm the district court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of the Town.
Note that the time period started to run when the employee “received” notice of the adverse employment action, which in this case was a wrongful termination. (Best Law Read: What Constitutes An Adverse Employment Action Under Title VII?; What Is An Adverse Employment Action?).
How much time do I have to file a lawsuit after receiving a Right To Sue letter from the EEOC?
Top Wrongful Termination Attorney Answer: 90 days. Again, this means calendar days. Unlike calculating the deadline to file the charge with the EEOC, there is no extension of the deadline based on state laws or waiting for documentation from state agencies on other claims. Additionally, unlike calculating the deadline to file the charge with the EEOC, the clock starts when the EEOC issues the Right To Sue letter regardless of when it is received by the employee. This can get confusing.
In fact, Onoyom Ukpong, Ph.D., found this very confusing and lost his claims as a result. Ukpong, who is a Black man and native of Nigeria, was fired from his job as a high school art teacher at International Leadership of Texas Garland High School. Believing that he was wrongfully fired, Ukpong filed charges with both the EEOC and Texas Workforce Commission. The EEOC sent the Notice of Right To Sue on July 6, 2018. The TWC’s Notice of Complainant’s Right to File Civil Action was sent to Ukpong October 10, 2018, and specifically told him that he had 60 days to file his claims.
On November 5, 2018, without the assistance of an attorney, Ukpong sued the school under both federal and state laws in Texas state court for race and national origin discrimination. After the case was removed to federal court, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas dismissed the Title VII claims as being untimely. In Ukpong v. International Leadership Of Texas, No. 21-11111, 2022 WL 6935140, at *3 (5th Cir. Oct. 12, 2022), the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed and held:
Dr. Ukpong takes exception to the district court’s ruling that his Title VII claims were untimely. Again, we disagree and affirm. “A civil action under Title VII must be brought within ninety days of receipt of a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC.” Berry v. CIGNA/RSI-CIGNA, 975 F.2d 1188, 1191 (5th Cir. 1992) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f); Price v. Digital Equip. Corp., 846 F.2d 1026, 1027 (5th Cir. 1988)). “This requirement to file a lawsuit within the ninety-day limitation period is strictly construed.” Taylor v. Books A Million, Inc., 296 F.3d 376, 379 (5th Cir. 2002). … Here, Dr. Ukpong was issued an EEOC right-to-sue letter on July 6, 2018, but did not file suit until November 5, 2018, well outside the 90-day limitations period.
Dr. Ukpong resists this straightforward conclusion, arguing that the 90-day limitations period for his federal Title VII claims runs not from the date of the EEOC notice, as the statute provides, but from the date he received authorization from the TWC to bring a state-law claim under the TCHRA. But he cites no authority in support of his counterintuitive position. More importantly, we have previously held that EEOC right-to-sue letters are not interchangeable with TWC right-to-sue letters, acknowledging that “receipt of a TCHR[A] letter would not trigger the analogous EEOC ninety-day filing period.” Vielma v. Eureka Co., 218 F.3d 458, 466 (5th Cir. 2000) (emphasis in original). This is because, under the terms of the statute, the EEOC letter is “the exclusive mechanism for commencing the federal filing period.” Id. (citing Muth v. Cobro Corp., 895 F. Supp. 254, 256 (E.D. Mo. 1995)); see 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1).
As you can see, by attempting to go it alone without hiring an employment discrimination attorney, Ukpong blew the statute of limitations and lost his claims.
Change I file a charge of discrimination on my own with the EEOC?
Best Employee’s Rights Law Firm Answer: Well, you can file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC on your own, but that does not mean you should. While every race and gender discrimination case is different, the EEOC and lawsuit process is always complicated and there are a series of procedural landmines that can blow up your case. You should not risk your age discrimination or sexual harassment, when you can call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation. (Read: What is the Spitz No Fee Guarantee?; Why Having Skilled Employment Attorneys Is Critical; Employment Law: Avoid Hiring The Wrong Attorney). Call our lawyers in Ohio, Michigan, and North Carolina to help you navigate this process. Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm and its experienced attorneys are dedicated to protecting employees’ rights and solving employment disputes.
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