The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear an Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) case involving FedEx drivers. Employees in three states, including Florida, filed an ADEA suit against FedEx, citing policies designed to “drive out older workers.”
Under the law, employees must file a complaint with the EEOC or its equivalent state agency within 300 days of the last discriminatory act—a rule that is the same for both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and ADEA cases. However, Title VII plaintiffs must wait for the EEOC to investigate and issue a “right-to-sue” letter before proceeding to court. ADEA plaintiffs must wait 60 days after they file a “charge” to move to court, regardless of whether the EEOC issues a right-to-sue letter.
The question before the court is: “Does filing a complaint mean the same thing as filing a charge?” ADEA never defines the word “charge,” and the EEOC has always treated a complaint as a charge. In this case, FedEx maintains they are different, and since some of the workers did not file a “charge” 60 days before proceeding to court, their cases should be dismissed.
This case comes on the heels of Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire, where the court narrowed the time allowed to file Title VII cases. If that case is an indicator, FedEx’s definition of “charge” may hold sway. The Supreme Court will hear the case in October.