Employees typically have to file EEOC complaints within 300 days. Some attorneys think they can get around that rule by shopping around for other laws on which to base their lawsuits. Typically, they try to find a common-law tort to fit the situation, giving them much more time to sue. Now that avenue has been blocked.
Recent case: Sasha went to work for Axium as a physician account representative. Shortly after she started, a former co-worker at a previous job also joined Axium, becoming Sasha’s supervisor.
The relationship didn’t go well, and Sasha complained that the supervisor sexually harassed her. She said that after making her and other female subordinates attend a social function at a belly dancing restaurant, he told everyone, “Oh yeah, Sasha was table dancing last night!”
Shortly after, Sasha was fired. She never formally filed a complaint with either the EEOC or the Texas Workforce Commission, so she missed the official filing deadlines.
But later she filed a lawsuit under Texas common law, alleging that her supervisor defamed her when he claimed she had danced on a table when, in fact, she had refused to do so.
Axium asked the court to toss out the case. It reasoned that the comment, even if defamatory, was really part and parcel of her sexual harassment claim and not a separate action.
The court agreed—and because she missed the deadline for filing a sexual harassment claim, she was also barred from filing her state defamation claim. (Hassell v. Axium Healthcare, No. 4:13-cv-746, ND TX, 2014)
Final note: If the court had allowed this case to go forward, it might have opened the litigation floodgates to creative attorneys.
- How to Fire an Employee the Legal Way: 6 Termination Guidelines
- Employee handbooks: Craft with care to secure 'at-will' policy
- How to prove work environment isn't hostile: Track every bias, harassment complaint
- Must we permit transitional work following off-duty injuries?
- 'Difficult' employee? Don't assume a disability