Courts generally bend over backward to make sure employees get their day in court. Employers can’t count on courts to toss out vague complaints. Instead, many cases that begin with a very general EEOC complaint find their way through discovery and into a trial court.
That’s why it pays to take every EEOC complaint seriously. As soon as you get wind of a complaint, contact your attorneys right away. They can help you decide what steps to take to resolve the case.
The complaint also should trigger a record-retention effort, as well as an internal investigation into the allegations. It is crucial to nail down exactly what happened right away, because it may be years before the case goes to trial, and memories fail and employees leave or retire.
Recent case: Michelle Garcia filed a vague EEOC complaint in which she said, “People are jealous of me and the way I look.” The complaint also alleged that while she was a store manager “males who were store managers have either been promoted or moved to a bigger store.” She provided no details and no specific dates.
The employer argued that her complaint was too vague to put it on notice that she was claiming sex discrimination. But during discovery, Garcia found out that four males actually had been promoted during the time period she was complaining about. That was enough for the court to order the parties to prepare for trial. (Garcia v. Dillon Companies, No. 05-CV-02339, DC CO, 2008)
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