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As our employment discrimination attorneys have harped on, there are a lot of problems that can ruin a  wrongful termination if you try to go through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) process on your own. Any claim filed under Title VII must first be properly submitted to the EEOC. This means that any claim for discrimination, harassment, or retaliation that arises out of an employee’s race/color, gender/sex, national origin,  religion, LGBTQ+ status, disability, or age must be properly brought first to the EEOC and that no law suit can be filed until a right to sue letter is provided by the EEOC, which must be properly requested by the employee. This is often referred to as exhausting administrative remedies. The failure to do so properly can and often does result in a federal district court throwing out that claim.

Let’s look at the recent case of Woodling v. Geobuild, LLC, No. 22-3499, 2023 WL 335283, (6th Cir. Jan. 20, 2023) out of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit as an example. The employee, Eric Woodling, worked for Geobuild as a laborer on roadside stabilization projects. After taking time off for back surgery, Woodling sought to return to work with a disability accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). And while I will address the disability discrimination claim in tomorrow’s blog, today we focus on Woodling’s retaliation claim.

Under Title VII, employers cannot retaliate against an employee for reporting, opposing, or participating in an investigation regarding discrimination or harassment based on one or more of the protected classes listed above. Importantly, the retaliation claim is a separate claim from the underlying discrimination or harassment claim.

Unfortunately for Woodling, he did not properly check the box for a retaliation claim nor did he provide specific facts that might raise the claim on his charging form. Given this, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the claim:

In his EEOC filing, Woodling only reported discrimination based on disability, checking the box on the form labelled “DISABILITY” and providing the following description of that claim: “I requested a reasonable accommodation for my disability … I was denied a reasonable accommodation for my disability when I was terminated … I believe I have been discriminated against due to my disability.” Woodling failed to check the box labelled “RETALIATION”, and there is nothing in the description of his charge that even hinted at this claim. Given the minimal factual allegations in Woodling’s EEOC charge, we agree with the district court that Woodling included nothing in that filing to bring a potential retaliation claim to the EEOC’s attention. He could have amended his EEOC charge to include his retaliation claim or additional facts that might have alerted EEOC to such a claim, but he did not.

Id. at *2.

Don’t be a Woodling. Get help right away to properly pursue the claim when filing with the EEOC. There is nothing worse that losing a potentially good employment discrimination or harassment claim because you didn’t check a particular box or include a necessary phrase on an EEOC charging form.

Best Lawyer Blogs On Point:

How do I file an EEOC Charge?

Best Employment Lawyer Answer: If you are trying to figure out how to file an EEOC charge against your employer on your own – STOP! The EEOC will not help you and you will likely cause a problem that may block your claims from ever being heard. Instead, 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). Not only will our lawyers in Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, and Kentucky give you a free evaluation, but you will never have to pull money out of your pocket to pay to get your EEOC charge filed.

Disclaimer:

This employee’s right website is an advertisement for legal services. The EEOC materials available at the top of this discrimination and harassment webpage and at this employment law website are for informational purposes only and should not be considered direct legal advice on your particular claims. To obtain direct legal advice regarding your workplace discrimination, harassment, or retaliation claims, you need to contact our top attorneys to obtain advice. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of The Spitz Law Firm, Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.