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Fourth Circuit Says Courts Retain Jurisdiction Over Retaliation Claim Linked to Untimely EEOC Discrimination Charge

    Client Alerts
  • October 17, 2014
In order to sue for employment discrimination under Title VII, plaintiffs must first file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission within a certain time period after the last alleged discriminatory act. Last month, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (which includes North Carolina and South Carolina) concluded that it retains jurisdiction over a retaliation claim related to a discrimination lawsuit dismissed because the EEOC charge was not filed within these time periods.

In Hentosh v. Old Dominion Univ., the plaintiff filed a race discrimination charge with the EEOC. While the EEOC investigation was pending, ODU denied the plaintiff tenure. She sued following completion of the EEOC investigation, claiming discrimination and retaliation. ODU moved to dismiss the discrimination claim on the basis that it was untimely. The University also sought dismissal of the retaliation claim because it was not mentioned in the EEOC charge, and because the plaintiff never filed a second EEOC charge alleging retaliation.

The district court dismissed the discrimination claim, but allowed the retaliation claim to continue. The court noted Fourth Circuit precedent allowing suit over retaliation claims connected to the original charge of discrimination without the need to file a second EEOC charge. The plaintiff appealed, seeking dismissal of the retaliation claim, presumably because she wished to pursue it in the context of a second discrimination and retaliation charge she subsequently filed with the EEOC.

The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s refusal to dismiss the retaliation claim. Under Title VII, retaliation claims exist independently of the initial discrimination charge and the dismissal of the discrimination claim does not deprive the court of subject matter jurisdiction over the retaliation allegations. Even if the accusations contained in the initial EEOC discrimination charge were untimely, the subsequent retaliation claim relates to those allegations, and can proceed despite dismissal of the initial charge of discrimination.