The failure to file a formal EEOC charge of discrimination addressing specific claims of discrimination can be fatal to Title VII claims that proceed to court. This lesson was learned in Brown v. Department of Public Safety, State of Hawaii, as the Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the Department after the plaintiff/employee failed to supplement his formal EEOC charge with specific information relating to his allegations of race discrimination.
The employee claimed that his employer failed to investigate his complaints of “insubordination and rule violations” on 52 separate occasions – creating a hostile work environment due to his race. However, these allegations were not included in his charge of discrimination, which only addressed his claim that he was discriminated against because of his race when a subordinate referred to him in a derogatory manner, and he was later removed from his temporary assignment. The new allegations were not “’like or reasonably related to the allegations contained in the EEOC charge.”
As a result, he could not pursue the claims in court because he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. Notably, federal court jurisdiction is only established for Title VII claims after plaintiffs exhaust their administrative remedies.
Even if an employee files a charge of discrimination, if the scope of the investigation does not include claims later raised at trial, then the claims may be dismissed. EEOC charges are construed liberally, but this does not provide employees with a free-for-all when they receive a right to sue that is based on narrow allegations unrelated to those raised in litigation.