Court: EEOC paperwork foul-up doesn’t cancel right to sue under N.C. law

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Firing,Human Resources

Employees must file bias complaints with state anti-discrimination agencies before they have a chance to make a federal case out of it. If they don’t, they can find their claims being dismissed, meaning they lose the chance to sue in federal court, too.

It’s usually enough to file a complaint with the EEOC, which is supposed to forward the case to the appropriate North Carolina state agency. But what happens if the EEOC never forwards the complaint?

Recent case: Lynda worked for Franklin County. When she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, she asked for ADA accommodations of her disability.

Instead of offering help, Lynda claims her supervisors began criticizing her work and moved her from job to job, each one progressively more difficult. Finally, on a day when she had learned at a doctor’s appointment that she would have to begin ­aggressive new treatment, the county fired her.

She sued, starting her litigation with an EEOC disability discrimination complaint. But the agency never sent the paperwork to the North Caro­­lina Office of Administrative Hear­­ings (OAH). That’s the state agency in charge of handling discrimination complaints filed by county government employees.

Franklin County asked the court to toss the case because Lynda missed her OAH filing deadline. After learning that the EEOC had dropped the ball, the court refused to dismiss the case. Instead, it gave Lynda 10 days to file her OAH complaint. (Collins v. Franklin County, et al., No. 5:10-CV-147, ED NC, 2012)

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