United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit
Employment — Rehabilitation Act
A seeker of relief under the Rehabilitation Act against a recipient of federal money is not required to exhaust the administrative remedies that the Act provides.
“It’s true that a person who unlike our plaintiff wants to sue a private employer under Title VII must first file a charge with the EEOC. But he or she doesn’t have to obtain a decision on the merits from the agency before bringing suit, merely a right to sue letter, Doe v. Oberweis Dairy, 456 F.3d 704, 708 (7th Cir. 2006), signifying that the agency has decided not to exercise its prerogative to sue on behalf of the complainant. In contrast, ‘the requirement of exhaustion of administrative remedies is a requirement to submit one’s grievance to an administrative tribunal for decision before one can bring a suit. It would be odd and wasteful to allow a plaintiff who was required to exhaust his administrative remedies to bypass the administrative tribunal and sue in an ordinary court. For a jury would then be deciding whether he had been required to exhaust yet had failed to do so; and if it decided that he had failed, the trial would be aborted and the plaintiff told to pursue his administrative remedies (if still open; if not, he would be out of luck). Title VII, in contrast, does not require exhaustion. It states that “a charge … shall be filed … within three hundred days after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred,” but not that an administrative proceeding shall have been conducted before the employee can file suit. The fixing of a filing deadline is what a statute of limitations does; requiring exhaustion of administrative remedies requires more.’ Begolli v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., 701 F.3d 1158, 1160 (7th Cir. 2012) (citations omitted). The plaintiff in our case wasn’t required to file anything with the EEOC. She is thus at two removes from having to exhaust administrative remedies.”
Reversed and Remanded.
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Stadtmueller, J., Posner, J.