Employee’s Failure to Allege Religious Discrimination in EEOC Charge Not Fatal to Her Lawsuit

Employee’s Failure to Allege Religious Discrimination in EEOC Charge Not Fatal to Her Lawsuit

On June 3, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court in Fort Bend County, Texas v. Davis held that an employee’s failure to file a charge with the EEOC alleging discrimination on the basis of her religion was not fatal to her lawsuit alleging religious discrimination against her employer. The plaintiff had filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against her employer alleging sexual harassment and retaliation for reporting the harassment. While her EEOC charge was pending, she was fired for failing to show up for work on a Sunday because she had gone to a church event instead. She did not amend her EEOC charge or file another charge alleging religious discrimination. After receiving a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC, she commenced a lawsuit alleging religious discrimination and retaliation for reporting sexual harassment.

After years of litigation, the employer for the first time challenged the jurisdiction of the federal court to adjudicate the plaintiff’s religious discrimination claim arguing that she had not made a religion-based discrimination claim in her EEOC charge. In a unanimous decision, the Fort Bend County Court rejected the employer’s argument and held that the charge-filing requirement of the federal anti-discrimination law was “a nonjurisdictional claim-processing rule,” which is subject to waiver. The Fort Bend County Court added that defendants “have good reason promptly to raise an objection that may rid them of the lawsuit filed against them.”