Employees have to file EEOC complaints within 300 days of alleged discrimination or lose the right to sue. Similarly, they have to file state claims within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory act. If they miss those deadlines, they can’t sue.
Repeatedly changing one’s mind about a situation involving an allegedly discriminatory act doesn’t extend or revive the deadline.
Recent case: Thomas worked for US Airways as a fleet service agent. He was up for a promotion to a job paying more and was informed he had the job. Then he apparently had an anxiety attack about the promotion.
Thomas claimed that his boss realized he was conflicted about taking the job, confronted him and demanded an immediate decision regarding the promotion. In a panic, Thomas wrote a one- or two-sentence memo withdrawing his acceptance of the position. The supervisor took the memo and said, “I can’t deal with this anymore. You have to make a decision now, today or you won’t have it.”
The supervisor then forwarded the memo to the person who would be Thomas’ new supervisor. When Thomas showed up at the new job, he was sent back to his old job.
More than a year passed. Then Thomas wrote to HR, explaining at length what had happened. He claimed he was disabled and asked for the promotion. HR never responded.
Thomas then filed EEOC and state discrimination claims, followed by a lawsuit. US Airways argued the claims came far too late.
The court agreed, despite Thomas’ argument that his letter to HR was really a discrimination complaint that revived his deadlines. (Bennetta v. US Airways, No. 13-5463, ED PA, 2014)
Final note: If Thomas’ strategy had worked, it would effectively have eliminated deadlines on filing EEOC complaints.