EEOC examines wrongfully dismissed discrimination complaints

A recent report by the EEOC digs into why discrimination claims were wrongfully dismissed.

In an attempt to help better ensure that individuals who suffer from discriminatory practices receive a fair hearing, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently examined a number of appellate decisions alleging discrimination in federal positions. These claims were all dismissed due to procedural grounds, basically meaning the allegations of discrimination were not fully investigated because something went wrong in the initial claims process.

Essentially, each federal agency has its own Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) office. This office makes an initial review of the discrimination complaints and determines whether the allegations should be investigated or dismissed. The EEOC's examination focused on allegations that were dismissed prior to an investigation. The report by the EEOC explains that the examination was conducted in an effort to help increase the chances of an individual's complaints receiving a proper investigation.

More on the EEOC's efforts

According to a press release by the EEOC, most of these dismissals were due to a failure to state a claim or a failure to comply with certain time limitations. The report, Preserving Access to the Legal System: Common Errors by Federal Agencies in Dismissing Complaints of Discrimination on Procedural Grounds, analyzed five years of appellate decisions that were brought by employees and dismissed. According to the Office of Federal Operations (OFO), 81 percent of the erroneous dismissals of complaints were attributed to either a failure to state a claim or failure to comply with time limits.

Failure to state a claim

To state a claim the compliant must follow strict criteria. The allegation must include a specific basis for the claim. Some examples include discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability and genetic information. The claim must also explain how the discriminatory practice impacted the individual's capacity for employment.

The report found that the EEOC mistakenly reviewed this criterion in a variety of ways, including fragmentation and issues with the merits of the case. In some cases, agencies failed to properly distinguish between the facts and the legal claim. This led to improperly breaking up the claim which compromised the strength of the claim, contributing to its dismissal. In other instances, it was determined that the initial review did not constitute a full investigation. As a result, a dismissal at this stage based on merit is commonly reversed.

Failure to comply with time limits

In instances where a case was dismissed for failure to comply with time limits, common mistakes by the EEOC included a failure to consider a valid excuse for not meeting these time limits. The report explains that there are a variety of reasons that could be used to support an extension. Health concerns and a failure of the individual who is making the allegations to understand how the claims process works were two examples.

Importance of legal counsel

These issues are just a few that can arise to stall or derail a discrimination claim. As a result, those who are victimized by discrimination in the workplace are wise to seek the counsel of an experienced employment discrimination attorney.

Keywords: discrimination