Monday, June 3, 2019
SCOTUS Decision in Fort Bend County v. Davis: Title VII’s Charge-Filing Requirement Is Not Jurisdictional
As a precondition to the commencement of a Title VII action in court, a complainant must first file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC or Commission). §2000e–5(e)(1), (f)(1). The question this case presents: Is Title VII’s charge-filing precondition to suit a “jurisdictional” requirement that can be raised at any stage of a proceeding; or is it a procedural prescription mandatory if timely raised, but subject to forfeiture if tardily asserted? We hold that Title VII’s charge-filing instruction is not jurisdictional, a term generally reserved to describe the classes of cases a court may entertain (subject-matter jurisdiction) or the persons over whom a court may exercise adjudicatory authority (personal jurisdiction). Kontrick v. Ryan, 540 U. S. 443, 455 (2004). Prerequisites to suit like Title VII’s charge-filing instruction are not of that character; they are properly ranked among the array of claim-processing rules that must be timely raised to come into play.
Although the charge-filing precondition is not jurisdictional, Justice Ginsburg writes that it is “‘mandatory’ in the sense that a court must enforce the rule if a party properly raises it.” [Op. at 7 (citing Eberhart v. United States, 546 U.S. 12, 19 (2005) (per curiam))]. She notes, however, that “[t]he Court has reserved whether mandatory claim-processing rules may ever be subject to equitable exceptions.” [n.5 (citing Hamer v. Neighborhood Housing Servs. of Chicago, 583 U.S. ___, ___, n. 3 (2017))].
Justice Ginsburg concludes: “Title VII’s charge-filing requirement is a processing rule, albeit a mandatory one, not a jurisdictional prescription delineating the adjudicatory authority of courts.”