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Legal Memorandum: Title VII Damages Claim Requirements

Issue: Does failing to name a union party in an EEOC charge bar plaintiff’s Title VII claim against them?

Area of Law: Constitutional Law, Employee Law
Keywords: Title VII claim; Discrimination; Failure to name a union
Jurisdiction: Federal, Virgin Islands
Cited Cases: 562 F.2d 880; 777 F.2d 113; 925 F.2d 1195
Cited Statutes: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Date: 08/01/2006

 

A plaintiff employee’s union faces liability for workplace discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 if it fails to file a grievance over discrimination and harassment against a member.  Woods v. Graphic Commc’ns, 925 F.2d 1195, 1200 (9th Cir. 1991).  See also Goodman v. Lukens, 482 U.S. 656, 667-68 (1987), aff’g 777 F.2d 113 (3d Cir. 1985).  A union representing its members who become subject to discrimination has an affirmative duty to pursue grievances on behalf of such members.  Woods, 925 F.2d at 1200 (the union that acquiesced in a racially discriminatory working environment, despite repeated complaints by its member, would be liable under Title VII). 

Prior to filing a complaint for Title VII damages in a court of law, the plaintiff must file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC.  Even if a plaintiff does not name a particular defendant in the EEOC complaint, this exclusion will not prevent the complaint alleging a violation of Title VII from being maintained against that defendant if the Glus factors are present:

Factors which we believe the district court should look to are 1) whether the role of the unnamed party could through reasonable effort by the complainant be ascertained at the time of the filing of the EEOC complaint; 2) whether, under the circumstances, the interests of a named [party] are so similar as the unnamed party’s that for the purpose […]

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