Typically, employees have just a short period of time to file an EEOC discrimination claim. But what if they don’t know they are being discriminated against? In some circumstances, that may give them much more time to begin a lawsuit.
All the more reason to be open about employment decisions—it makes it harder for employees to later claim they didn’t understand their situations.
Recent case: R.D. McMillan worked for General Electric and went on short-term disability after he developed carpal tunnel syndrome in 2003. In 2004, he asked to return to work, but the company didn’t offer him a position.
He didn’t file an EEOC charge alleging ADA violations until 2007. He argued that he didn’t know he had been discriminated against until then.
The court rejected his argument. It said late filings may be excused if the employee couldn’t have discovered the discrimination until he did.
For example, the court noted that if an employee didn’t know how much co-workers were earning, he might not realize he was being discriminated against until he learned of the disparity. This is the so-called discovery rule, which says the clock starts ticking as soon as the employee knows or should have known that he was being discriminated against.
That didn’t apply here because McMillan knew in 2004 that his employer wouldn’t let him return to work. The case was dismissed. (McMillan v. General Electric Company, et al., No. 7:-09-CV-160, ED NC, 2010)