Limitations for Filing with the EEOC
The limitation for filing charges with the EEOC depends upon the existence of a state or local agency to enforce a statute or ordinance against employment discrimination. In a state or locality without such an agency, a charge must be filed with the EEOC within 180 days of the alleged discrimination. In a state or locality with such an agency, a charge must be filed with the EEOC within 300 days of the alleged discrimination or within 30 days of notice of termination of state or local proceedings, whichever period expires first. Moreover, if an individual files a charge with the EEOC without first exhausting appropriate state or local administrative remedies, the EEOC must defer action on the charge for 60 days or until the termination of state or local proceedings, whichever occurs first.
In Love v. Pullman Co., the Supreme Court approved the EEOC's treatment of charges filed with the EEOC before exhaustion of state or local administrative remedies. In such cases, exhaustion of state and local administrative remedies is accomplished automatically by the EEOC, which refers the charge to the state or local agency and then, after expiration of the 60-day deferral period, reactivates the charge within its own proceedings. In Mohasco Corp. v. Silver, the Court examined the effect of this practice on the limitation for filing with the EEOC. Essentially, the Court combined the 300-day limitation for filing with the EEOC with the 60-day deferral period for state or local proceedings. The result was the "240-day maybe" rule. The 240-day branch of the rule derives from the 300-day branch of the limitation, less the 60-day deferral period. The Court reasoned that a charge initially filed with the EEOC without exhaustion of state or local administrative proceedings is effectively filed with the EEOC only 60 days later, when the charge is reactivated by the EEOC after referral to the state or local agency. Consequently, the original limitation of 300 days for effective filing with the EEOC must be shortened by 60 days to 240 days for initial filing. Sixty days of the 300-day limitation are taken up by the deferral period in which the EEOC cannot act on the charge. The "maybe" branch of the rule derives from the part of the deferral rule that ends the deferral period upon termination of state or local proceedings. Even if a charge is initially filed with the EEOC more than 240 days after the alleged discrimination, the charge may still be effectively filed with the EEOC within 300 days of the alleged discrimination if state or local administrative proceedings terminate in less than 60 days. Termination of these proceedings ends the deferral period and, under EEOC regulations, automatically reactivates the charge with the EEOC before the expiration of the 300-day limitation.
The principal defect of the "240-day maybe" rule of Mohasco is that a 240-day limitation appears nowhere in the statute. This makes the "240-day maybe" rule difficult to find and understand, especially for nonlawyers who are supposed to be able to file charges with the EEOC without the assistance of counsel. The principal argument for the "240-day maybe" rule is that it is the only rule that results in equal treatment of those who file charges initially with the EEOC and those who file charges with the EEOC only after exhausting state or local administrative remedies. Both have 300 days from the date of the alleged discrimination and 240 days after the deferral period to file a timely charge with the EEOC.
The EEOC has alleviated much of the uncertainty created by the "240-day maybe" rule by entering into work-sharing agreements with state and local agencies. Such agreements are expressly authorized by section 709(b), and they typically provide for waiver of jurisdiction of the state or local agency if it is necessary to ensure that a charge is timely filed with the EEOC. These provisions...