North Carolina employees have 180 days to file discrimination complaints with the EEOC. Those who don’t meet the deadline lose their rights to sue. But the date that really counts is not the actual termination date if the employer informed the employee earlier that she would lose her job.
That’s why it’s important for employers to track exactly when and how they tell employees their jobs are being eliminated. The best approach is to document in writing that the employee was told. Better yet, have her sign an acknowledgment.
Recent case: Debra Weston, who is white, worked at Randolph County Community College on an employment-contract basis. She supervised two black employees and complained frequently to her own (white) supervisor that her subordinates weren’t doing their jobs. She was told, however, to leave them alone.
A few months before Weston’s employment contract was up for renewal, her employer told her that her contract would not be extended and she should look for another job.
Weston waited until she no longer had a job before she filed an EEOC complaint, in which she alleged that she was the victim of reverse discrimination because she was terminated after complaining to her supervisor about her black subordinates’ poor work habits.
Although she filed her EEOC complaint within 180 days of her last day at work and the contract expiration date, it was much more than 180 days since she first received the notice. The court tossed out her case, relying on 4th Circuit Court of Appeals cases that state the date of the unequivocal termination notice—not the actual termination date—starts the clock. (Weston v. Randolph County Community College, No. 1:06-CV-00063, MD NC, 2007)
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