In this blog, I often focus on the substantive law prohibiting discrimination cases, such as those under ADEA. But a case decided late last week demonstrates the importance of making sure that employees follow the procedural requirements required by law under anti-discrimination provisions..
In Cassotto v. Potter (D.Conn, Oct. 21, 2008) (Hall, J.) (download here), a terminated employee sued for his employer (the U.S. Postal Service) for age discrimination under ADEA without having filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The employer moved for summary judgment arguing that the employee never exhausted his administrative remedies.
What does that mean? Well, according the Court, ADEA has two options for employees to sue: Either exhaust the EEOC administrative procedures and, if not satisfied with the outcome, bring suit in federal court; or, bypass the administrative procedures by giving the EEOC a "notice of intent" to sue and waiting 30 days.
Here, the court said, the employee did neither and instead tried to rely on other discrimination claims that he filed in the past with the EEOC. The court rejected that argument and said that Second Circuit law puts the burden squarely on the employee to show that he or she has complied.
For employers, the case is a simple reminder that defending cases of discrimination is often a two-front battle. Ensuring that employees meet both the procedural requirements and substantive requirements to prove their case may increase the employer’s likelihood of successfully defending such claims.