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Courts crack down on lawsuits against entities not named in EEOC complaints

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Human Resources

Eventually, your organization will be blindsided by a discrimination lawsuit that seems to come out of nowhere. In fact, it may hit years after the alleged bias occurred. That means you may long ago have discarded the documents that could clear the company.

But courts are growing impatient with employees who launch such sneak attacks, as this recent 11th Circuit Court of Appeals decision shows.

Recent case: Robert Lewis, who is black, worked for a Florida tree trimming and removal company. The company had a contract with the city of Gainesville, and Lewis was assigned to the crew that performed the work for the city.

Lewis filed an EEOC complaint alleging race discrimination and a hostile work environment. He never mentioned the city as a defendant in his complaint. Three years later, his employer settled the case.

But Lewis wasn’t done. After settling, he sued the city, alleging it also had been his employer, and that one of the city’s employees had placed a noose around Lewis’ neck and threatened to hang him.

The city said it was surprised by the lawsuit, given that it hadn’t been included in the EEOC complaint. Therefore, it said it never had a chance to promptly investigate the allegations. Plus, the city said Lewis should be barred from suing it since he didn’t name Gainesville in the EEOC complaint.

The court agreed and dismissed the case. (Lewis v. Asplundh Tree Expert, et al., No. 10-11751, 11th Cir., 2010)

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