Thursday, July 10, 2014

Third Circuit Addresses Three Discrimination Issues in One Predential Opinion

Guess who's back? Sorry for the brief hiatus - I was knocked out of commission for a few days with an assortment of illnesses and various other calamities (probably "minor annoyances" would be a better description) . . . but I'm back! And, I have a doozy of a Third Circuit opinion.

In Hildebrand v. Allegheny County (precedential opinion here), the Third Circuit addressed three different lingering employment discrimination issues. Frankly, each of these is interesting in its own right and could be its own blog post:
1. [A] state or local government employee may not maintain an age discrimination claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, but must instead proceed under the ADEA; 
2. [A] plaintiff is not obligated to plead exhaustion of administrative remedies with particularity, but may instead allege in general terms that the required administrative process has been completed.; and 
3. [T]he EEOC Intake Questionnaire, revised in the wake of Federal Express Corp. v. Holowecki, 552 U.S. 389 (2008), when properly completed, constitutes a charge of discrimination.
(each number is a separate but direct quote).

If Number 1 sounds familiar, that's because it was essentially the issue presented in Madigan v. Levin, a 2013 Supreme Court case that was dismissed as improvidently granted (i.e. "DIG'd") shortly after oral arguments.

If Number 2 sounds familiar, that's because the pleading standards have been a battleground ever since Iqbal and Twombly. Under Hildebrand, the Iqbal-Twombly standard does not apply to the pleading of the administrative exhaustion requirement in employment discrimination claims.

And Number 3? Well that's Holowecki fallout. Although the Court adopted a broad definition of "filing a charge" in Holowecki, the Court advised the EEOC to establish a "clearer, more consistent" process. The EEOC revised their intake questionnaire to include "Box 2." A claimant checks Box 2 expressly indicating "I want to file a charge of discrimination, and I authorize the EEOC to look into the discrimination I described above."