It’s common for employers to let employees know in advance that they’re about to lose their jobs or have failed to win coveted promotions. Getting bad news like that can make some employees wonder whether discrimination might have played a role.
Employees who decide to make bias claims have either 300 or 180 days to file an EEOC complaint—300 days where there is a state-level anti-discrimination agency, and 180 days if they file their complaint with their state’s anti-discrimination agency.
If employees miss the deadline, their potential discrimination lawsuit dies.
That’s why it’s crucial for employers to provide a date to start the count. And that date is the date when the employee first learns that she won’t have a job—even if the job actually ends later.
Recent case: Rose Mezu, who is of Nigerian origin and Igbo ethnicity, was an associate professor who was up for promotion to full professor. She got a letter from the administration informing her that she wouldn’t get the promotion. She appealed internally, asking for the university to reconsider.
The university stood by its decision and Mezu filed an EEOC complaint. Then she filed a federal discrimination lawsuit.
The university argued that the court should dismiss the lawsuit because Mezu hadn’t filed her EEOC complaint in time, based on the date the letter was sent. Mezu argued that the letter wasn’t the final decision and that the clock shouldn’t start running until her internal appeal was completed.
The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the university. It said the date that mattered was when she was originally notified that she had been denied the promotion. (Mezu v. Morgan State University, et al., No. 09-1447, 4th Cir., 2010)