Former Judge’s Lawsuit Against the EEOC Revived
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has allowed a lawsuit to proceed against the Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), after ruling that the plaintiff, Mary Bullock, a former administrative law judge, exhausted her administrative remedies in alleging that the EEOC discriminated against her due to her medical conditions.
Bullock began working for the EEOC in 1999. During that time, Bullock, who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis and Systemic Lupus, alleged that the EEOC discriminated against her based on those conditions. Ironically, the EEOC exists to enforce federal anti-discrimination laws.
Bullock initially filed an informal complaint with the EEOC, as required, in early 2003 followed a formal complaint four months later. The judge considering her complaints found that Bullock could not perform her employment functions even with reasonable accommodation and thus failed to qualify for protection under the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in federal employment. The judge also found, however, that the EEOC retaliated against Bullock for filing the complaint by preventing her from working at home and earning promotions and requiring stricter deadlines for her than her non-disabled colleagues. Bullock filed an appeal of that decision in August 2006, but withdrew the appeal a month later in favor of a civil suit, which she filed in October 2006.
Generally, plaintiffs seeking to sue government entities must exhaust administrative remedies provided by those entities before filing a civil suit. A federal district court judge ruled in April 2010 that, by dropping her internal complaint in favor of a civil suit and failing to wait the statutory 180 days, Bullock failed to exhaust her administrative remedies with the EEOC. The Ninth Circuit disagreed, ruling that Bullock exhausted her administrative remedies upon receiving the initial determination prior to 2006. Bullock may now proceed with her original civil suit.
If you feel you have been the victim of workplace discrimination, please contact Khorrami, LLP for a confidential consultation.