When the threat of a lawsuit looms, it’s good to know when the threat has finally passed. So when you find out that the EEOC has dismissed a case as unwarranted by sending the employee his 90-day, right-to-sue letter, you do what the regulations seem to imply you can safely do—you add to the postmark date three days for mailing and count forward 90 days. If the employee doesn’t serve you with a lawsuit at the end of those 93 days, you can breathe a sigh of relief and forget about it.
But employees are notorious for filing lawsuits anyway, complete with excuses for why they simply couldn’t abide by the deadline. Now a Minnesota federal trial court has dashed such hopes for at least one employee and added stability to the system.
Recent case: Christian Parler filed an EEOC complaint against his former employer, alleging discrimination, harassment and retaliation. During the time the complaint was still at the agency, he wrote to the EEOC to explain that he would be without a mailing address for a while. He provided his cell phone number.
The agency then dismissed his complaint, but sent a letter to Parler’s previous address. It did not call Parler, who nonetheless got the letter five days after it was mailed because the post office forwarded it.
Parler filed his federal lawsuit 95 days after the EEOC mailed the letter. His former employer asked the court to dismiss the case, reasoning that Title VII specifies that employees must file their lawsuits 90 days after receipt of the letter.
The regulations state that the 90-day window starts three days after the EEOC mailing date. The court agreed. It said that no employee could reasonably expect that the EEOC would call, or that the 90 days would be extended indefinitely just because the employee didn’t have a mailing address. (Parler v. Hood Packaging, No. 07-CV-4288, DC MN, 2008)
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