August 8, 2022

Volume XII, Number 220

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August 08, 2022

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Charging Party Who Did Not Timely Open Link in EEOC Email Loses Her Chance to Sue

The day that a plaintiff receives the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) notice of his or her right to sue starts the running of the ninety-day period to file a lawsuit—not the date the plaintiff (or the plaintiff’s lawyer) opens the link to the right-to-sue letter, according to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. On May 24, 2022, in Paniconi v. Abington Hospital-Jefferson Health, the court granted the employer’s motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim because the lawsuit was filed one day too late. The court held that the plaintiff, Denise Paniconi, who filed a race and religious discrimination lawsuit in federal court ninety-one days after the EEOC issued her a right-to-sue letter, could not proceed with her lawsuit.

Receipt of an email equals notice of its contents

The court held that Paniconi “received” the right-to-sue notice the day the EEOC sent her an email providing notice of an “important document.” Paniconi had to follow a link and log in to the portal on the EEOC’s website to access the document, which was her right-to-sue notice. The court calculated the ninety-day deadline to file a lawsuit from the date she received the email—not from the date her counsel opened the link and actually saw the right-to-sue letter. Paniconi’s filing of a lawsuit ninety-one days after receiving the EEOC’s email was one day too late.

Ninety-day window acts like a statute of limitations

The court reasoned that because the ninety-day time limit for filing a lawsuit “‘is akin to a statute of limitations,’” it could not be tolled absent an equitable reason. The court ruled that not opening a link in an email from the EEOC did not qualify as an equitable reason.

Three-day mailbox rule does not apply to emails

The court rejected Paniconi’s argument that the three-day “mailbox rule” (a grace period allowing three days for mail delivery) should apply to the calculation of the ninety days from which a charging party receives an email notification of a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC. The three-day rule did not apply because there was not a dispute about the date that Paniconi’s counsel received the EEOC’s email with the link to the right-to-sue letter, the court stated.

© 2022, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 162
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About this Author

Ellen Toth Employment Lawyer Ogletree Cleveland
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Ellen Toth resides in the Cleveland office where she defends employment discrimination lawsuits for clients in the private and public sector. Ellen also defends charges brought before the EEOC, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and other state and federal agencies. She provides counseling and training on a wide variety of employment issues.

Prior to joining Ogletree, Ellen worked in-house as labor and employment counsel for YRC Worldwide Inc., a Kansas City-based international transportation company. At YRC, she partnered with operations and human resource personnel to reduce legal...

216- 274-6907
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