EEOC Must be First Stop for ADEA Charge

December 28, 2005 ( - The US 10th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a lower court that a man who claimed he was terminated in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) should have first had his case investigated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) before taking his case to court.

According to the opinion, David Shikles claimed Sprint violated the ADEA by denying him promotions and terminating him.   He began working in Sprint’s billing department in 1997 when he was 56 years old.   He was terminated in 2002 as part of a reduction in force.

Shikles filed a charge with the EEOC.   However, when the EEOC tried to investigate, Shikles and his lawyer cancelled three telephone interviews with the EEOC investigator and failed to provide requested information, according to the court document.   The EEOC dismissed the charge, but gave Shikles a Notice of Right to Sue.

The US District Court for the District of Kansas granted Sprint’s motion for summary judgment on the basis that Shikles failure to cooperate with the EEOC meant he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies thereby depriving the district court of subject matter jurisdiction.

On appeal, the court found that the ADEA requires a plaintiff to cooperate with an EEOC investigation and that investigation is required as a prerequisite to filing suit.   The court decided however that the lower court was incorrect in granting summary judgment to Sprint, but should have dismissed the case due to lack of jurisdiction.   The appellate court remanded the case back to the district court for dismissal.

The opinion in Shikles v. Sprint/United Management, U.S.Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, No. 03-3326 (10/20/05) is  here .