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Employer’s perceived threat isn’t enough to excuse employee’s late discrimination filing

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Employees who want to file a discrimination complaint have to meet tight deadlines. They have just 90 days after receiving an EEOC “right-to-sue” letter to start their lawsuits. A perceived threat from an employer —such as a statement that it will “dig up” everything it can about the employee—doesn’t excuse missing the deadline.

Recent case: Rosalynd Mason claimed that female co-workers at the White Castle restaurant where she worked sexually harassed her. When she complained, White Castle changed her schedule, but that caused her to miss her preferred worship service.

Mason filed complaints with the EEOC and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. Then she asked for them to be dismissed so she could file a federal lawsuit. The agencies agreed and she received her right-to-sue letter.

Meanwhile, she claimed that someone in White Castle management had threatened that the company would “dig up everything” in her past to “destroy her” in court.

Mason missed her deadline and filed late, alleging she had been too frightened by the alleged threat.

The court said that was no excuse. It dismissed her case. (Mason v. White Castle Systems, No. 09-208, DC MN, 2009)

Final note: Of course, no one in management should ever issue any kind of threat. Had Mason not missed her deadline, her testimony could have sunk a good defense if a jury believed she was threatened. Don’t risk it. Instead, let your attorneys handle any response to the threat of litigation.

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