Monday, January 14, 2019
Whether Title VII’s administrative-exhaustion requirement is a jurisdictional prerequisite to suit, as three circuits have held, or a waivable claim-processing rule, as eight circuits have held.
5th Circuit Decision Below at Justia: Davis v. Fort Bend County (5th Cir. 2018)
Davis filed a complaint with the Fort Bend County Human Resources Department alleging that a director had sexually harassed and assaulted her. An investigation led to the director’s resignation. According to Davis, her supervisor retaliated because the director was a personal friend of Davis's supervisor. Davis informed her supervisor that she could not work one specific Sunday because she had a "commitment” to attend a special church service. Her supervisor did not approve the absence. Davis attended the service and did not report to work. Fort Bend terminated her employment. Davis filed a charge with the Texas Workforce Commission then filed suit under Title VII. The Fifth Circuit affirmed summary judgment on her retaliation claim but reversed on her religious discrimination claim, finding genuine disputes of material fact as to whether Davis held a bona fide religious belief that she needed to attend the service and Fort Bend would have suffered an undue hardship in accommodating Davis’s religious observance. The Supreme Court denied Fort Bend’s petition for certiorari. On remand, Fort Bend argued—for the first time— that Davis had failed to exhaust her administrative remedies. Holding that administrative exhaustion is a jurisdictional prerequisite in Title VII cases, the district court found Davis’s contention that Fort Bend had waived this argument “irrelevant.” The Fifth Circuit again reversed. Title VII’s administrative exhaustion requirement is not a jurisdictional bar but rather a prudential prerequisite and Fort Bend forfeited the argument.