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Think Outside the Box: District Court Reminds Employers to Carefully Review EEOC Charges

Recently, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama issued a decision reminding employers to take care when reviewing and responding to charges of discrimination.

In Payne v. Navigator Credit Union, the defendant employer moved to dismiss the plaintiff employee’s claim for disability retaliation on the grounds that the plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies. Specifically, the employer argued that the plaintiff failed to allege in her EEOC Charge that she was retaliated against, and was precluded from pursuing a retaliation claim in court. When making its argument, the employer pointed out that the plaintiff had not “checked the box” for “retaliation” on her EEOC Charge nor did she use the word “retaliation” when describing how she had allegedly been harmed.  Nevertheless, the court ruled that the plaintiff’s allegation in the charging document that she was terminated shortly after informing her employer of her need to take medical leave for cancer treatment was sufficient to place the employer on notice of the a claim for  retaliation.  

This decision suggests that some courts will grant plaintiffs wide latitude to define their claims in litigation.  Employers facing an agency charge, or that have questions regarding responding to inquiries from administrative employment agencies, should consult with competent counsel. 

© Polsinelli PC, Polsinelli LLP in California


About this Author

Kelly J. Muensterman, Polsinelli PC, Client Development Strategies Attorney, Employee Relations Lawyer,

Kelly Muensterman firmly believes that no two client issues are exactly alike, which drives his approach to tailoring advice and counsel that fits a business’s specific needs. He also knows that in the dynamic world of employment law, it is critical to understand and meet the numerous challenges that clients face. Kelly works with both private and public companies on a variety of employment law matters and supports the firm’s efforts to develop client strategies that enable them to effectively navigate challenges with regulatory, employee relations and workplace issues...