In a recent, Seventh Circuit Opinion, the Court found that Title VII’s requirement that a charge be filed with the EEOC within 300 days of an adverse employment action was an affirmative defense akin to a Statute of Limitations. Based on this Ruling, the Seventh Circuit stated that it was improper for a trial judge to conduct an evidentiary hearing to determine if, the Employee had complied with the 300 day time limit.
Where a Plaintiff or Employee makes a jury demand the question of affirmative defenses, such as, Statutes of Limitations must be decided by a Jury. A trial judge may not decide the matter, even if, the trial judge conducts an evidentiary hearing to see if, the Plaintiff or Employee had complied with the 300 day time limit.
The Seventh Circuit pronounced that the Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies requirement for Prisoner Litigation Cases was not the same as the 300 day time limit. The Prisoner Litigation Act requires that an arbitration tribunal first consider the matter and issue a ruling. On the other hand, Title VII’s 300 day limit to file an administrative charge does not require an Arbitration Panel to rule on the allegations in the Charge before filing suit. It merely acts a time limit or a statute of limitations that an Employer can raise in defense of claims of discrimination and retaliation.
The implications are that now more Plaintiffs or Employees will be able to survive motions to dismiss based on the 300 day time limit and potentially even motions for summary judgment. This Ruling makes it harder for Employers to defend claims that may be time barred.
See: Belogi v. Home Depot