Employment Law Report

SCOTUS Declares Title VII Charge-Filing Requirement Is Not A Jurisdictional Prerequisite

By Noah Lewis, Wyatt Summer Associate

In a recent decision, the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously held that the Title VII charge-filing requirement is not a jurisdictional prerequisite, but a procedural prerequisite. In the June 3, 2019 decision, in the case of Fort Bend Cty., Texas v. Davis, 2019 WL 2331306 (2019), the Supreme Court addressed whether Title VII’s charge-filing precondition to suit is a jurisdictional requirement that can be raised at any stage of the proceeding, or if the precondition is a procedural prescription that is mandatory if timely raised but “subject to forfeiture if tardily asserted.” Davis, 2019 WL at 2. The Court held that the charge-filing precondition is “properly ranked among the array of claim-processing rules that must be timely raised to come into play.” Id.

More importantly, from an employer’s perspective, the ruling in Fort Bend Cty., Texas v. Davis requires all employers to raise timely objections to an EEOC charge.  An employer must carefully analyze the plaintiff’s Title VII complaint with the corresponding EEOC charge to ensure there are no discrepancies between the two. Any objection the employer may have should be raised in its initial answer or risk waiving this important procedural defense.  Additionally, in cases such as Davis, employers should consider any potential claims that might be added by the plaintiff after filing the initial complaint. Failure to raise a timely objection to any of the plaintiff’s charges could result in the defendant waiving that defense.