Is Cooperation with the EEOC an Implied Requirement for Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies?

Author:Laura M. Hyer
Position:J.D. Candidate, The University of Iowa College of Law, 2013
Pages:1351-1375
SUMMARY

Prior to filing a lawsuit against an employer for discrimination, a complainant must first file a complaint with the EEOC in order to exhaust all available administrative remedies. Federal employment discrimination statutes do not explicitly require complainants to cooperate with EEOC investigations prior to filing suit in federal court; rather, the plain language of the statutes provides that so ... (see full summary)

 
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1351
Is Cooperation with the EEOC an Implied
Requirement for Exhaustion of
Administrative Remedies?
Laura M. Hyer
ABSTRACT: Prior to filing a lawsuit against an employer for
discrimination, a complainant must first file a complaint with the EEOC in
order to exhaust all available administrative remedies. Federal employment
discrimination statutes do not explicitly require complainants to cooperate
with EEOC investigations prior to filing suit in federal court; rather, the
plain language of the statutes provides that so long as the complainant files
a complaint with the EEOC and subsequently receives a right-to-sue letter
from the EEOC, she may proceed to file suit. The circuits are split as to
whether a cooperation requirement should be read into the statutes. This
Note advocates that future decisions should follow the Seventh Circuit’s
reasoning and not require that complainants cooperate with the EEOC in
order to establish federal subject-matter jurisdiction. Although counter-
intuitive at first glance, allowing noncooperation better serves the primary
purpose of the federal anti-discrimination statutes—eliminating
discrimination in employment, while affording claimants fair notice of their
responsibilities when pursuing claims.
I. INTRODUCTION .................................................................................... 1353
II. ANTI-DISCRIMINATION STATUTES, PROCEDURES, AND THE CIRCUIT
SPLIT .................................................................................................... 1354
A. ANTI-DISCRIMINATION STATUTES ................................................... 1354
B. THE EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION ................... 1355
C. CASE LAW ...................................................................................... 1357
1. The Tenth Circuit: Cooperation Required for Exhaustion 1358
2. The Seventh Circuit: A Strict Textual Interpretation ........ 1359
J.D. Candidate, The University of Iowa College of Law, 2013; B.S. Georgia Tech, 2010.
I would like to thank the student writers and editors of Volumes 97 and 98 of the Iowa L aw
Review for their work on this Note. I would also like to thank my husband for his support
throughout the publication process.
1352 IOWA LAW REVIEW [Vol. 98:1351
III. EXPLORING THE DISAGREEMENT ......................................................... 1360
A. INTERPRETING STATUTORY LANGUAGE ........................................... 1361
1. The Effect of Supreme Court Precedent ............................ 1362
2. Interpretations of the Public–Private Distinction .............. 1364
3. The EEOC’s Interpretation of the Cooperation
Requirement ......................................................................... 1365
B. THE FUNDAMENTAL PURPOSES OF THE EEOC .................................. 1366
1. The EEOC’s Purpose as a Screener .................................... 1366
2. The EEOC’s Purpose as an Advocate ................................. 1369
IV. SOLUTION ............................................................................................ 1371
A. COURTS SHOULD NOT READ COOPERATION INTO THE STATUTE ....... 1371
B. COURTS SHOULD NOT REQUIRE COOPERATION ................................ 1372
C. THE EEOC AS AN OPTIONAL REMEDY ............................................. 1375
V. CONCLUSION ....................................................................................... 1375

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