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Fort Bend Cty. v. Davis

Supreme Court of the United States

April 22, 2019, Argued; June 3, 2019, Decided

No. 18-525.


 [*1846]  [**122]   Justice Ginsburg delivered the opinion of the Court.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 proscribes discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. 78 Stat. 255, 42 U. S. C. §2000e-2(a)(1). The Act also prohibits retaliation against persons who assert rights under the statute. §2000e-3(a). As a precondition to the commencement of a Title VII action in court, a complainant must first file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC or Commission). §2000e-5(e)(1), (f)(1). The question this case presents: Is Title VII’s charge-filing precondition to suit a “jurisdictional” requirement that can be raised at any stage of a proceeding; or is it a procedural prescription mandatory if timely raised, but subject to forfeiture if tardily asserted? We hold that Title VII’s charge-filing instruction is not jurisdictional, a term generally reserved to describe the classes of cases a court may entertain (subject-matter jurisdiction) or the persons over whom a court may exercise adjudicatory authority [***5]  (personal jurisdiction). Kontrick v. Ryan, 540 U. S. 443, 455, 124 S. Ct. 906, 157 L. Ed. 2d 867 (2004). Prerequisites to suit like Title VII’s charge-filing instruction are not of that character; they are properly ranked among the array of claim-processing rules that must be timely raised to come into play.

Title VII directs that a “charge . . . shall be filed” with the EEOC “by or on behalf of a person claiming to be aggrieved” within 180 days “after the alleged unlawful employment practice occur[s].” 42 U. S. C. §2000e-5(b), (e)(1). For complaints concerning a practice occurring in a State or political subdivision that has a fair employment agency of its own empowered “to grant or seek relief,” Title VII instructs the complainant to file her charge first with the state or local agency. §2000e-5(c). The complainant then has 300 days following the challenged practice, or 30 days after receiving notice that state or local proceedings have ended, “whichever is earlier,” to file a charge with the EEOC. §2000e-5(e)(1). If the state or local agency has a “worksharing” agreement with the EEOC, a complainant ordinarily need not file separately with federal and state agencies. She may file her charge with one agency, and that agency will then relay the charge to the other. See 29 CFR §1601.13 (2018); Brief for United States as Amicus Curiae [***6]  3.

When the EEOC receives a charge, in contrast to agencies like the National Labor Relations Board, 29 U. S. C. §160, and the Merit Systems Protection Board, 5 U. S. C. §1204, it does not “adjudicate [the] clai[m],” Alexander v. Gardner-Denver Co., 415 U. S. 36, 44, 94 S. Ct. 1011, 39 L. Ed. 2d 147 (1974). Instead, Title VII calls for the following course. Upon  [*1847]  receiving a charge, the EEOC notifies the employer and investigates the allegations. 42 U. S. C. §2000e-5(b). If the Commission finds “reasonable cause” to believe the charge is true, the Act instructs the Commission to “endeavor to eliminate [the] alleged unlawful employment practice by informal methods of conference, conciliation, and persuasion.” Ibid. When informal methods do not resolve the charge, the EEOC has  [**123]  first option to “bring a civil action” against the employer in court. §2000e-5(f)(1). Where the discrimination charge is lodged against state or local government employers, the Attorney General is the federal authority empowered to commence suit. Ibid. 1

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139 S. Ct. 1843 *; 204 L. Ed. 2d 116 **; 2019 U.S. LEXIS 3891 ***; 103 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P46,291; 27 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 867


Notice: The LEXIS pagination of this document is subject to change pending release of the final published version.


Davis v. Fort Bend Cty., 893 F.3d 300, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 16853 (5th Cir. Tex., June 20, 2018)

Disposition: 893 F. 3d 300, affirmed.


charge-filing, prescription, district court, claim-processing, mandatory, courts, jurisdictional provisions, nonjurisdictional, civil action, court of appeals, subject-matter, retaliation, provisions

Business & Corporate Compliance, Discrimination, Disparate Treatment, Statutory Application, Labor & Employment Law, Civil Actions, Exhaustion of Remedies, Filing of Charges, Title VII Discrimination, Scope & Definitions, Retaliation, Statutory Application, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Civil Procedure, Jurisdiction, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Jurisdiction Over Actions, US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Deferral, Reasonable Cause & Conciliation, Right to Sue Letters, In Rem & Personal Jurisdiction, In Personam Actions, Preliminary Considerations, Jurisdiction, Appeals, Reviewability of Lower Court Decisions, Preservation for Review, Governments, Legislation, Statute of Limitations, Federal Questions