Age Discrimination Suits Can Go Directly To Court

July 26, 2001 ( - Plaintiffs charging age discrimination don't need "right to sue letters", a federal judge has ruled. They can go directly to court 60 days after filing an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charge.

Defense lawyers in the case of Turton v. Sharp Steel Rule Die Inc, had argued for dismissal since the plaintiff had failed to “exhaust” his available administrative remedies at the EEOC. The arguments were rejected.

Case Law

Judge Jan E. DuBois, citing a 1998 decision in Hodge v. N.Y. College of Podiatric Medicine, that explained the differences in the exhaustion requirements of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and Title VII.

It explains that while Title VII plaintiffs must receive a ‘right-to-sue’ letter from the EEOC before filing suit in federal court, plaintiffs with age discrimination cases need only wait 60 days after filing the EEOC charge. The latter can sue in court even if the EEOC ‘s investigation or attempts at conciliation are incomplete.

In Detail

The plaintiff, Robert Turton, claimed that Sharp Steel fired him after 22 years of service because his employer wanted to hire a younger, untrained person for less money.

After filing an administrative charge with the EEOC in March 1999, he filed suit in April 2001. Sharp Steel’s lawyer immediately moved for dismissal, claiming that the suit did not attach a right-to-sue letter and didn’t state whether Turton had exhausted his administrative remedies.

The judge interpreted Section 626(d) of the ADEA to mean that a complainant who has filed a charge with the EEOC, and has waited 60 days prior to filing an ADEA claim in federal court, has exhausted his administrative remedies. Turton easily met that requirement since he sued well after the 60-day period.

On the argument that Turton had failed to attach a right-to-sue letter, the judge found it irrelevant to the case.

– Camilla Klein