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Employee suing for bias? Double-check whether he’s filed EEOC or MHRA complaint

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Here’s a tip that can save you time and money: When you receive a notice that an employee, applicant or former employee has filed a Title VII discrimination lawsuit in federal court, always double-check whether the employee has already filed an EEOC complaint or a Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) complaint (with the box for joint EEOC filing checked). If the litigant didn’t do that, he may be out of court very quickly.

Recent case: Lionel Pye sued Nu Aire, alleging employment discrimination and retaliation. The case was originally dismissed, but Pye appealed.

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the retaliation claim and sent the case back to the trial court. That’s when the company pushed hard to have the case tossed out again—based on the fact that Pye admitted he had never filed an EEOC complaint.

Pye argued that the company waited too long to challenge the claim, but the court disagreed and closed the case. (Pye v. Nu Aire, No. 08-5992, DC MN, 2011)

Final note: There’s an important lesson in this case.

Right away, figure out whether a lawsuit belongs in court in the first place. If not, push the issue.

When you are served with the lawsuit, immediately check your records. If you don’t find an EEOC or MHRA complaint, double-check with the agency—and tell your ­attorney.

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