In cases of employment discrimination and retaliation, the worker’s ability to pursue that claim in court depends on more than just the strength of the factual evidence he/she has. The law imposes certain requirements that, if not satisfied, can completely derail the worker’s case. One of these is something called the “exhaustion of administrative remedies,” which means going through the proper administrative agency before suing in court. Whether you’re a worker or an employer, issues like exhaustion can dramatically alter the trajectory of your case, and these issues represent just one of the countless reasons why it pays to have a knowledgeable Atlanta employment retaliation lawyer handling your case.
One U.S. Postal Service employee recently lost his claim for this reason. The worker, E.E., was an African-American male and mail handler. In 2003, the handler suffered a lower-back injury that impaired his ability to do “repetitive motions such as bending, lifting, twisting, and turning.”
In 2016, the handler’s supervisor assigned him to a “modified job position.” That new position had the impact of reducing the handler’s daily hours by 75%, which also triggered a reduction in his pay. In response, the handler filed a race and disability discrimination charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. A few months later, the supervisor allegedly retaliated against the handler because he complained to the EEOC.
The employee also filed a civil lawsuit, initially alleging claims of race and disability discrimination. The handler later amended the lawsuit to add a claim based on the supervisor’s alleged retaliation.
The Postal Service sought dismissal of that retaliation claim… and won. The problem the handler encountered was one of exhaustion of administrative remedies.
The Exhaustion Rules Regarding Post-Charge Retaliation
At the federal level, that means filing with the EEOC before suing in federal court. The handler did not meet that obligation with regard to his retaliation claim. The handler’s loss of that claim is a reminder that, even if the retaliation a worker encounters occurs after the worker filed a charge with the EEOC, the worker still has to go through the EEOC process with the retaliation claim. In 2014, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals encountered the issue and specifically ruled that an employee fails “to exhaust his administrative remedies for a claim of post-charge retaliation because the claim” related to separate and discreet acts of misconduct if he does not amend that charge.
This employee had a nearly identical problem. The retaliation he allegedly endured occurred via separate and distinct illegal act(s), so he had to file a retaliation charge with the EEOC. Because he didn’t, the employer got that claim dismissed.
The outcome of this 11th Circuit case holds important lessons for both workers and employers involved in alleged instances of discrimination and retaliation. For workers, the ruling is a reminder to make certain of the completeness of all filings with the EEOC to avoid potential exhaustion problems. For employers, the case illustrates the crucial importance of closely analyzing all allegations to ensure compliance with the exhaustion standard.
If you have questions or concerns about the law regarding retaliation, the experienced Atlanta employment retaliation attorneys at the law firm of Parks, Chesin & Walbert have the knowledgeable answers you can rely on. Trust our team to do the thorough investigation you need and offer the effective solution options you deserve. Contact us through this website or at 404-873-8048 to schedule a consultation.