News from the Courts: On February 5, 2013, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld the dismissal of an EEO complaint in Dyson v. District of Columbia, Case No. 11-7146. The court found that the employee’s filing of an intake questionnaire with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was not enough to meet the statute of limitations for starting her EEO complaint, and so her lawsuit was dismissed as untimely.
Ms. Dyson was a D.C. government employee. Under the EEOC’s procedural regulations for most federal discrimination claims, private-sector, state and local government employees (but not federal employees) have the same statute of limitation for starting EEO complaints: 180 days from the date of the alleged violation, or 300 days from the violation if the employee first files with a state or local EEO agency (such as the D.C. Office of Human Rights (DCOHR)). The deadline is met by filing a Formal Charge. State /local EEO statutes, such as the D.C. Human Rights Act (DCHRA), may have different deadlines.
Ms. Dyson filed an intake questionnaire 216 days after suffering sexual harassment. The intake questionnaire form specifies that it was not a formal charge, that the 180/300 day deadline for formal charge still applied, and that the employee should follow up if they do not hear back from the EEOC within 30 days. Ms. Dyson did not follow up. Four months after filing her intake questionnaire, Ms. Dyson received a draft formal charge from EEOC, which she filed a month later with both the EEOC and DCOHR–338 days after the sexual harassment.
After Ms. Dyson sued, the U.S. District Court dismissed Ms. Dyson’s federal claims for failure to meet the 300-day deadline, and dismissed her DCHRA claim for lack of jurisdiction (with possible re-filing in D.C. Superior Court).
Ms. Dyson appealed the dismissal of her federal EEO claims to the D.C. Circuit, asserting that the trial court erred in not adjusting the filing deadline (‘tolling the deadline’) to reflect the four-month delay between the intake questionnaire filing and the mailing of the draft formal charge.
The D.C. Circuit upheld the dismissal, noting that the intake questionnaire’s text told Ms. Dyson about the 300 day deadline and that the intake questionnaire was insufficient to meet that deadline. Also, Ms. Dyson had not followed up with the EEOC after 30 days. Dyson warns employees that they need to be proactive in pressing their EEO complaints and careful about the relevant deadlines.