Second Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Employment Discrimination Claims Not Raised in the EEOC

On Friday, the Second Circuit held in Colquitt v. Xerox Corp. (Summary Order) that plaintiff’s employment discrimination claims that were not raised – or “administratively exhausted” – in the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) were properly dismissed from plaintiff’s lawsuit.

In Colquitt, plaintiff alleged that she was subjected to (1) a race-based denial of phone privileges and failure to promote, (2) a gender-based hostile work environment, and (3) a race-based hostile work environment, in violation of Title VII.

Plaintiff’s EEOC charge, however, only addressed the hostile work environment claims.  The district court dismissed her failure-to-promote and denial-of privileges claims because plaintiff did not include in her EEOC charge “any allegations concerning Xerox’s failure to promote her or its denial of her workplace privileges.”

Here’s the law:

Administrative exhaustion is a precondition to bringing a Title VII action, and, in general, claims that were not presented to the EEOC may be pursued in a subsequent federal court action [only] if they are reasonably related to those that were filed with the agency.

The Second Circuit agreed with the district court that plaintiff failed to meet the “reasonably related” standard.  Specifically:

[Plaintiff’s] failure-to-promote and denial-of-workplace-privileges claims were not reasonably related to the hostile work environment claims listed in Colquitt’s EEOC charge because the charge contained no factual allegations that would have given the agency notice that Colquitt sought to pursue a failure-to-promote claim or a claim that she had been improperly denied workplace privileges. Because such claims were not administratively exhausted, and because an amendment to add factual detail to those claims would not cure this substantive flaw, the district court properly dismissed those claims without granting leave to replead.

If anything, this case illustrates that care must be taken when drafting an EEOC charge in order to limit the risk of dismissal on failure-to-exhaust-administrative-remedies grounds.

If you believe you have suffered employment discrimination or harassment, we can help.  Feel free to contact us today for a free phone consultation and case evaluation.

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