The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has made it clear that employers and employees cannot contractually shorten deadlines for employees to file federal anti-discrimination claims. The Sixth Circuit’s ruling in Thompson v. Fresh Products LLC covers employers in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), employers may not discriminate on the basis of an employee’s real or perceived disability, or on the basis of age. If an employee believes that they have been subject to disability or age discrimination, then they need to file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 calendar days from the day of the alleged discrimination (or up to 300 calendar days if a state or local agency enforces a law that prohibits age or disability discrimination). If the EEOC decides not to take up the case after investigation, then the employee has 90 days to take their grievance to federal court.
In Thompson, the employee handbook had a clause limiting the time for employees to file a claim or initiate an anti-discrimination lawsuit to only six months. The Sixth Circuit held that these limiting provisions ran afoul of the ADA and ADEA. According to the Sixth Circuit, these contractual limitations would undermine the uniform application of the ADA and ADEA, and, perversely, incentivize employers not to cooperate with the EEOC.
The Sixth Circuit’s recent Thompson decision is an extension of its 2019 ruling in Logan v. MGM Grand Detroit Casino. In Logan, the court held that employers could not contractually limit employees’ ability to bring anti-discrimination claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.
Employers should make sure that their handbooks and other materials are in line with these recent Sixth Circuit decisions. If you have questions about how these holdings may impact your business, or you would like an audit of your HR materials, please contact Rob Gilmore at firstname.lastname@example.org or 216. 736.7240, Melissa Yasinow at email@example.com or 216.736.7205, or any of our Labor & Employment professionals.
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