The United States Supreme Court has clarified an important procedural rule that may serve to allow more Colorado workers who file federal discrimination cases to pursue their claims without having to worry about legal pitfalls.
To file what is called a Title VII claim for discrimination based on gender, race, religion, national origin and the like, a worker in the Denver area would ordinarily be expected to first file an administrative complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC.
The EEOC is the federal agency charged with enforcing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act as well as other anti-discrimination laws. It may also suffice to file a claim with the appropriate Colorado agency.
In some cases, the EEOC may elect to take up the case on the employee's behalf, but in most situations, the EEOC will issue what it calls a right-to-sue letter, which, as the name implies, opens the door for the employee to use the federal court system.
Until now, there was some thought that, without a right-to-sue letter, federal courts legally could not hear discrimination claims under Title VII. The Supreme Court's recent holding clarified that in some situations, federal courts can hear a discrimination claim even without a right-to-sue letter. For example, an employer cannot wait for years of litigation before pointing out the issue and then expect a dismissal.
Hopefully, this holding will serve to protect employees who have suffered from workplace discrimination from falling in to a legal trap that could, unfairly, sink their legitimate claims. Still, these sorts of procedural rules are one reason why employees should consider getting professional legal help with their claims.