Even if employees in California and other states don't bring allegations of workplace discrimination directly to state agencies or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), they may still be able to move forward with their claim. This is what the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a unanimous decision in June, 2019. The verdict applies to federal courts and discrimination claims filed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
The decision essentially means courts cannot automatically dismiss an employment discrimination case simply because a worker didn't first file a claim with the EEOC or an equivalent agency. However, employers are still able to bring up instances of a plaintiff's failure to first file a claim with the EEOC within a timely manner to seek dismissal of a claim. But this defense may not be permissible if an employer fails to bring it up within a reasonable period of time.
In the wake of this decision, employers involved in Title VII lawsuits are advised to determine if a worker first filed a claim with a state enforcement agency or the EEOC as soon as possible. This ruling does not apply to state non-discrimination laws and related claims filed in state courts. In California, for instance, workplace discrimination allegations must first be filed with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing on a state level. It is, however, possible that state courts may eventually adopt the High Court's ruling and apply it to the state level.
The role of a workplace discrimination attorney with any case of this nature is to help ensure an affected employee's rights are upheld. Filing an employment discrimination claim can be a complicated process, even when a worker goes to the EEOC first. A lawyer might make sure important deadlines are met and that supporting documentation is included to back up the discrimination assertions being made.