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Late EEOC filing? Better be able to prove it

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Employees typically have just 300 days to file EEOC and state discrimination complaints. Otherwise, their lawsuits will be tossed out.

But it’s the employer’s burden to prove the complaint was filed too late—not the employee’s burden to prove he filed on time.

That’s why you should always immediately review EEOC complaints to see if the employee met the deadline. In the EEOC paperwork, make sure the alleged discrimination occurred within 300 days of filing. Then check those dates against your own internal records. What to look for: Did the employee fudge his termination date to get in under the EEOC filing deadline?

Recent case: George, who is black, had worked for Target for about a year when he unsuccessfully applied for a position as a team leader. A month later, he learned that a white co-worker got the job. On May 27, 2010, George filed an EEOC complaint. In the cover document, he alleged the discrimination happened on June 30, 2009. In the complaint’s narrative portion, he said he had applied for the promotion in July or August 2009.

If June 30 was correct, his case would be tossed out of court. If the later dates were right, Target would not be able to have the case dismissed for failing to meet the 300-day deadline.

The lower court agreed with Target that the June 30 date counted and dismissed the case.

But the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed. It pointed out that it was Target’s job to raise missing the deadline as a defense. Likewise, Target had to prove that the discrimination happened outside the deadline by showing that the alleged discriminatory act didn’t happen on any of the dates George mentioned in his EEOC complaint. (Williams v. Target, No. 11-1689, 8th Cir., 2012)

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