Employees and former employees have just 300 days to file their initial EEOC discrimination complaints. But that countdown doesn’t start until the “adverse employment action” they want to challenge has occurred.
That means that the moment employees know they have been fired, the clock starts ticking.
Recent case: Michael Hoffer decided one day to build stilts and test them out on the shop floor—a project that had nothing to do with his job at Manchester Tank & Equipment. Then he posted photos online. When HR found out, it concluded that the conduct was unsafe. He was sent home for violating company safety rules.
Later, he called and explained that he didn’t think he should have been punished because his boss had OK’d the horseplay. Eight days after he was sent home, HR agreed to meet with Hoffer. It was only then, Hoffer said, that he realized he had been fired.
Nearly 11 months later, Hoffer filed a complaint with the EEOC, alleging he had been fired in retaliation for a much earlier sexual harassment report.
Manchester asked the court to dismiss the case because Hoffer waited more than 300 days to file his EEOC complaint. Hoffer argued he should have had more time to sue, because he didn’t suspect retaliation until later.
The court tossed out the case. Even going by the meeting date—when he was pointedly told he had been fired—he was still too late. (Hoffer v. Manchester Tank & Equipment, No. 09-3156, CD IL, 2010)
Final note: Track the exact notification date for all discharges even if you don’t give a written notice to the employee. Note that he was informed and his reaction to show he knew he was terminated that day.
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