Supreme Court Takes FedEx Discrimination Case to Settle Complaint Procedure

June 7, 2007 ( - The nation's high court has accepted an age discrimination case involving FedEx Corp. to decide exactly what workers have to do before they can take age discrimination charges against their employer into court.

According to a Bloomberg news report, t he justices said they would hear FedEx’s argument that Patricia Kennedy and 11 other couriers can’t sue because they didn’t first file a formal “charge” with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). An appeals court said a questionnaire and statement Kennedy submitted to the EEOC in 2001 was good enough to qualify as the administrative complaint workers were supposed to file first.

In legal papers filed with the court, business groups argued that a formal charge, or something treated as one by the EEOC, gives employers a better chance to work out their workers’ concerns short of litigation. After receiving a charge, the EEOC must notify the employer, investigate the allegation and seek a resolution. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce was among the business groups filing papers in the case.

The workers say FedEx, based in Memphis, Tennessee, used performance goals as an excuse to fire some older couriers and a way to try to push others out the door.

Meanwhile, the employees asserted in their legal papers that the Supreme Court should not hear the case, contending that FedEx had ample notice about their grievances because of charges two members of the group had filed previously with the EEOC.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said Kennedy could sue, saying the “forceful tone and content” of her statement filed with the EEOC in Florida showed she wanted the agency to take action. The appeals court also said 11 other employees could “piggyback” on Kennedy’s charge. Other appeals courts have sided with employers on the issue.

The justices will hear arguments during their 2007- 2008 term, which starts in October.