Title VII requires employers to post a notice of employees' rights under the law. Failing to adhere to these posting requirements will result in more than a slap on the wrist. You could get slapped with a late discrimination lawsuit that is filed after the 300-day statute of limitations has passed, when you otherwise would have been safe.
Case In Point
The EEOC granted right-to-sue letters to two employees who claimed they were forced to resign from their jobs due, in part, to discrimination based on sex and national origin. That pro-employee decision came despite the fact that they filed their charges after the expiration of Title VII's 300-day statute of limitations. The employees had argued that the time frame should be extended because the company failed to post notices advising them of their legal rights related to employment discrimination.
A lower court dismissed their claims, ruling that the provision that allows time extensions for filing claims can be used only when the employer "actively misled" employees, and that failure to post a notice did not fall into that category.
But a court of appeals resurrected their claims, ruling that an employer's violation of the posting requirement may provide a basis for an extension as long as the employees had no other actual or constructive knowledge of the available complaint procedures. (Mercado, et al. v. Ritz-Carlton San Juan Hotel, Spa & Casino, 1st Cir., No. 04-1630, 2005)
Making Up For Missing Posters
The outcome of this case will depend on whether or not the employees had actual or constructive knowledge of the filing requirements.
Actual knowledge does not mean specific awareness of Title VII's 300-day statutory filing period; rather, actual knowledge occurs when an employee becomes generally aware that he/she possesses a legal right to be free from the type of discrimination alleged.
Constructive knowledge would have been presumed, according to the court, if the employer had complied with its statutory obligation to post EEOC notices in conspicuous locations. The court also indicated that a handbook provision advising employees of their right to seek redress in the event of perceived discrimination also constitutes sufficient notice.