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Supreme Court rules on discrimination requirement

New Jersey workers who file a discrimination claim against their employer under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act may be able to have that claim heard in federal court even if they do not first file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This was the unanimous decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Fort Bend County v. Davis.

Employers are required to raise the issue of not filing with the EEOC with the employee if they want to try to have the suit dismissed. If they fail to do so in a timely fashion, then this dismissal may not be granted. This ruling only applies to federal cases and not to discrimination filings made under state law although state courts may eventually adopt a similar position.

One requirement of Title VII is that workers are supposed to give either the EEOC or a similar state agency a chance to resolve the claim before filing a lawsuit. However, the opinion written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says that this requirement is not jurisdictional.

People who believe they are dealing with workplace discrimination might want to consult an attorney about whether what they are experiencing is prohibited by Title VII. This includes discrimination based on such characteristics as race, religion, or national origin. The attorney might then also be able to advise the employee about how to proceed. For example, the employee may want to try to deal with the issue using workplace channels for reporting discrimination. Employers should do a fair investigation that protects the employee who makes the report and that does not involve retaliation. If the employer does not respond appropriately, the attorney may be able to help with the next stages, including making any necessary reports to the appropriate agencies.

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