Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies in Federal Employment Law Cases

Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies in Federal Employment Law Cases

 

This Title VII case teaches two key lessons - 1) You better know the scope of your case pretty well before you file your Charge of Discrimination; and 2) If you are pursuing a harassment claim, your facts better be sizzling. 

In Malone v. Ameren UE, 2011 WL 2750623 (July 18, 2011), the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed summary judgment in the employer's favor on claims under Title VII for failure to promote based on race and hostile work environment based on race. 

In his original administrative Charge of Discrimination, Plaintiff Malone alleged that Defendant failed to give him a promotion in 2007.  After it was determined in discovery that Malone actually received the promotion referenced in the Charge, he attempted to amend his claim to reference a different promotion in 2003 that he claims he should have gotten.  He also pursued a hostile work environment claim based on four racially discriminatory incidents that occurred at the workplace over a 2+ year span.  Though 3 of 4 incidents involved the "N word," none of those three incidents involved use of the word directly to the Plaintiff. 

The District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri granted summary judgment for the employer, finding that a) Plaintiff had not exhausted his administrative remedies with respect to the failure to promote claim; and 2) had not raised facts severe and pervasive enough to support a hostile work environment case.

On appeal, the Eighth Circuit agreed.

In advance of filing a civil claim, a Title VII claimant must file an administrative charge with the EEOC or local agency spelling out their claims.  If the matter proceeds to a civil action, the claims in the civil complaint must mirror those in the charge or must at least be reasonably expected to grow out of the charge of discrimination.  In this case, the courts held that a 2003 failure to promote from one position was unrelated to a failure to promote to another position in 2007, and therefore did not allow the amendment. 

As to hostile work environment, the facts supporting a claim most be severe or pervasive enough to satisfy a subjective AND objective standard, meaning the factfinder must agree that a reasonable person would have considered the environment to be hostile. 

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