Employees who want to sue their employers for alleged violations of Title VII or other anti-discrimination laws have to move quickly after the EEOC turns down their cases. If the agency decides not to pursue a case itself, it will issue a “Right to sue” letter. Employees then have up to 90 days to file a federal lawsuit. If they don’t file within the time frame, the case dies.
But before you dance a little jig on the 90th day, consider this: Courts don’t use the date the EEOC mailed the letter, but the date it was received.
Recent case: Odell Richards filed an EEOC complaint alleging that his former employer discriminated against him. The agency sent him his ‘‘Right to sue” letter, giving him 90 days to file his federal complaint. His former employer pointed out that he had actually waited 91 days to file and asked the court to toss out the case.
It refused, explaining that employees actually have an additional three days to file their complaints from the date the agency dates the letters, because the clock starts ticking when they receive the EEOC letters. And if the employee doesn’t know exactly when he did, the court adds three days because that is the number of days it presumes it takes the U.S. Postal Service to pick up, process and deliver a piece of first-class mail. (Richards v. Ershigs, No. 1:08-CV-297, MD NC, 2008)