Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Hart v. Winter (Maryland U.S.D.C.)(not approved for publication)

Decided December 21, 2006--Opinion by Judge Deborah K. Chasanow (not approved for publication)

Plaintiff filed a formal administrative complaint of discrimination with the EEOC alleging he was denied the position of Executive Housekeeping Officer due to racial discrimination and reprisal for having previously filed an equal employment opportunity complaint. Plaintiff received his EEOC decision on October 20, 2004 finding no discrimination and advising him that he had 90 days after receipt of the decision to file a civil action. Plaintiff affirmed receipt of the EEOC letter by October 24, 2004.

On February 17, 2005, the EEOC issued an errata letter to the plaintiff stating in its entirety:
The above captioned decision did not correctly list all of complainant's rights on appeal. A new decision with the corrected language, including complainant's right to request reconsideration, is attached. Please note that the applicable filing period for complainant to request reconsideration begins to run five days after receipt of this revision.

This correction in no way alters the substantive findings of the decision.
The decision attached to the errata notice was dated October 20, 2004, the same date as the original decision.

On January 27, 2005, 94 days after the initial limitations period began, the plaintiff filed his appeal. The civil action was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Defendant filed an a motion to dismiss for untimeliness, a motion to dismiss or transfer for improper venue or, in the alternative, for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia transferred the case on May 8, 2006 to the U.S. District Court for Maryland, stating that it was for the Maryland Court to decide whether plaintiff's case was timely filed.

Plaintiff argued that his complaint was timely filed because the EEOC reissued its final decision via the February 17, 2005, errata letter. However, the language the plaintiff relied on specified "the applicable filing period for complainant to request reconsideration begins to run five days after February 17[,2005]." However, the 90 day limitation period to file suit in federal court beings to run after receipt of a final EEOC decision.

The Court found that, had the plaintiff requested reconsideration, his limitations period to file an appeal in the district court would have restarted once the EEOC issued its decision on his request for reconsideration. Because the plaintiff did not exercise his right to request a reconsideration, the errata notice had no impact on the limitations period to file a judicial appeal. The appeal was thus filed untimely.

Equitable tolling is not appropriate here because the EEOC decision on October 20 adequately advised plaintiff of his right to bring suit in federal court. The reissued decision could not have misled plaintiff during the initial 90 day period because it was not issued until long after the period elapsed and, in fact, after plaintiff filed suit.

The full opinion is available in PDF.

No comments: