Friday, February 16, 2007

Valderrama v. Honeywell Technology Solutions, Inc. (Maryland U.S.D.C.)(Approved for publication)

Decided February 14, 2007--Opinion by Chief Judge Benson Everett Legg (approved for publication)

Valderrama, a pro se litigant, sued Honeywell Technology Solutions, Inc. ("HTSI"), claiming violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (retaliation, national origin discrimination and sex discrimination) and state law tort claims arising out of an alleged violation of her privacy. After extensive discovery, HTSI moved for summary judgment. The Court granted the motion and dismissed all counts of the complaint.

In order to maintain a Title VII action, a Maryland plaintiff must file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC or with the Maryland Commission on Human Relations within 300 days of the discriminatory act. Typically, complainants use an EEOC form document to file a charge. Valderrama, however, did not use the EEOC form. Instead, she offered a copy of an EEOC Intake Questionnaire as evidence that she timely filed the necessary charge of discrimination.

The Court, noting that the 4th Circuit has never precisely ruled on whether such a questionnaire is sufficient to satisfy the timeliness requirement, compared the contents of Valderrama's questionnaire with the definition of a charge. Quoting EEOC regulations, the Court stated: "a charge should contain 'a clear and concise statement of facts, including pertinent dates, constituting the alleged unlawful employment practices.' [Citation omitted.] At a minimum, the charge must be 'sufficiently precise to identify the parties, and to describe generally the action or practices complained of.'" If a document other than a charge meets this standard and is intended to trigger the machinery of Title VII enforcement, it will suffice to meet the timeliness requirement. Valderrama's allegations in the questionnaire that unidentified persons had made comments about her, however, were insufficient to constitute a timely charge.

The Court considered Valderrama's other claims, found them all lacking in factual support, and dismissed all of them, including the state law claims. The Court retained jurisdiction of the state law claims for the express purpose of dismissing them, noting that allowing the claims to be refiled in state court would be wasteful, "... because they would inevitably be dismissed as unfounded."

The full opinion is available in PDF.

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