Legal Memorandum: Dismissal of a Employee's Discrimination Claim

Issue: Should a federal court dismiss a postal employee’s discrimination claim based on a failure to exhaust administrative remedies because of the untimeliness of the filing pf documents?

Area of Law: Employee Law, Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Postal employee's discrimination claim; Failure to exhaust administrative remedie; Untimeliness of the filing pf documents
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: 404 F. Supp. 377; 52 F.3d 241; 404 F. Supp. 391; 968 F.2d 937; 88 F.3d 804
Cited Statutes: 29 C.F.R. § 1614.604(c); 29 C.F.R. § 1614.604(b); 29 C.F.R. § 1614.604(d); 29 C.F.R. § 1614.402(b)
Date: 04/01/2001

           The inquiry into the question whether a federal employee exhausted administrative remedies prior to filing suit is an inquiry into the court’s subject-matter jurisdictionVinieratos v. United States, 939 F.2d 762, 767-68 (9th Cir. 1991).  Exhaustion of administrative remedies is considered “a precondition to filing suit.”  Id. at 768.  A trial court’s decision to grant summary judgment for failure to exhaust administrative remedies is the equivalent of dismissal for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.  Id.  The Vinieratos Court spelled out the nature of these procedural requirements:


There is a subtle distinction here worthy of note.  We do not recognize administrative exhaustion under Title VII as a jurisdictional requirement per se; we treat it as a legal question under the de novo standard because the issue is whether the plaintiff has satisfied a statutory precondition to suit. . . Some courts [in other circuits], however, have treated exhaustion as a jurisdictional requirement.

Id. at 768 n.5 (comparing cases).  Therefore, when there is an issue as to the timeliness of an administrative finding, the court’s inquiry is couched in terms of exhaustion of administrative remedies.

The “time limit” in the EEOC regulation is a condition precedent to filing an appeal with the […]

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