A court has clarified that the EEOC isn’t required or expected to look beyond what an employee states in his agency complaint when investigating it.
That means that if an employee fills out the form herself and doesn’t provide enough information to trigger suspicions that discrimination has occurred, chances are the matter won’t go further.
Recent case: Vonzorra Bivings worked for a specialty medical facility transcribing orders and processing paperwork. Bivings was hired at age 45 and is black.
After she was terminated, she filed an EEOC complaint. On the complaint form, she claimed she had been told that she could not dye her hair blonde as she had done, but had to wear her hair in its natural color. She said this was harassment, but she never mentioned that she had been terminated.
The agency dismissed her complaint, but she sued anyway.
She told the judge that the EEOC should have investigated despite the incomplete form. If it had, she said, it would have uncovered age and race discrimination.
The court said the EEOC had no such obligation. If the complaint didn’t hint at a legal claim, it was free to dismiss the case. Plus, because Bivings hadn’t raised the issues before the EEOC, she lost her chance to do so later. (Bivings v. Select Specialty Hospital, No. 1:10-CV-00148, ND FL, 2011)
Final note: Always check the original EEOC complaint and compare it with the lawsuit complaint. Bring any discrepancy to your attorney’s attention.
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