EEOC Updates Complaint Timeliness Rules

July 22, 2005 ( - The agency charged with fighting workplace discrimination has revised its rules governing when the filing of certain types of claims will be considered timely.

In a Web statement , the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said the rules changes were designed to bring its Compliance Manual more in line with guidelines set by a US Supreme Court case in 2002. The revised rules deal with “threshold issues” – those issues first examined by an EEOC investigator before considering the complaining party’s substantive discrimination claims.

The high court ruled in the 2002 case that the timeliness of an employment discrimination charge depends on whether it involves a “discrete act” or a “hostile work environment” claim. Workers can only bring charges based on a “discrete act” (failure to hire or promote, termination, or denial of a transfer request) if those individual actions fell within EEOC’s time frames.

Meanwhile, all of the incidents that make up the same hostile work environment claim can be the basis of an EEOC complaint as long as at least one incident occurred within the required time period, according to the agency.

The EEOC said in the document that the timeframe for filing complaints concerning alleged violations under Title VII, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is 300 days if the complaining party lives in an area with a local employment protections agency and 180 days if the person lives in an area without one.   The worker must first obtain an EEOC “charge” effectively upholding the allegations before filing a lawsuit.

On the other hand, for allegations of violations of the Equal Pay Act (EPA), a complaint can be properly filed within two years or within three years in the case of a “willful” act. No EEOC action is required before filing an EPA suit.

“This update to the EEOC’s Compliance Manual clarifies an important aspect of threshold issues in light of recent legal developments,” said Commission Chair Cari Dominguez, in the agency’s Web statement. “The revision will assist investigators and EEOC stakeholders in determining the timeliness of claims pursuant to the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Morgan case. It explains how the time frames are applied to discrete acts, such as failure to hire or termination, and to hostile work environment claims.”

The revised section and questions and answers about the revision are  here .