Austin, TX (Law Firm Newswire) February 26, 2019 – The United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal in an employment discrimination Title VII case. In a rare move, the Court is accepting the case to address a procedural issue with filing Title VII cases. Title VII is the Federal law that prohibits employment discrimination based upon someone’s sex, race, religion, color and national origin.
The case is Fort Bend County v. Davis. In the case, Lois Davis alleged she was wrongfully fired because she reported that her supervisor engaged in sexual harassment and sexually assaulted her. She initiated the matter by filing a claim with the Texas Workforce Commission who, after an investigation, gave Davis permission to file a lawsuit. In filing the lawsuit, Davis claimed retaliation due to her sex as well as a religious discrimination claim because she claims she was fired for not working on a Sunday when she went to church instead.
The problem arose because she did not bring the religious discrimination claim in front of the Texas Workforce Commission. Gregory D. Jordan, an employment attorney with the Law Offices of Gregory D. Jordan in Austin, Texas, who is not involved in the case, commented, “It is not uncommon for an individual filing a complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission or the EEOC to be less than thorough. That can lead to serious problems.”
Fort Bend argued that the religious discrimination claim should be dismissed because Davis failed to exhaust all of her administrative remedies before filing suit, as required by Title VII. Davis argued that the exhaustion requirement is actually a “waivable” requirement, and is not a “jurisdictional” one, and in this case, Fort Bend did not raise the issue until five years after suit was filed.
The case was appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. That court found the exhaustion requirement is waivable. The appellate court reasoned that Congress, when drafting the legislation, made no mention of whether the exhaustion requirement is jurisdictional, but it could have. Therefore, this requirement could be waived by an employer.
Fort Bend filed a petition for review at the United States Supreme Court, arguing that the exhaustion of remedies requirement is clearly stated in the statute and is stated in language that is “jurisdictional” in nature, similar to other statutes that the Court has previously deemed jurisdictional. The Supreme Court has accepted the case and will hear arguments in the next term.
Gregory D. Jordan has advised that “in order to avoid the situation presented in the Fort Bend County v. Davis suit, any person considering filing a charge with the TWC or EEOC should first consult a lawyer.”
The case is Fort Bend v. Davis, No. 18-525.