EXHAUSTION REQUIREMENT

Fort Bend County, Texas v. Davis

Issues 

Is Title VII’s administrative-exhaustion requirement a waivable rule that agencies can raise as an affirmative defense, or is it a jurisdictional prerequisite for suit?

The Supreme Court will determine whether federal jurisdiction over Title VII claims is limited to claims that have met Title VII’s administrative-exhaustion requirement by first being presented to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). Fort Bend County, Texas (“Fort Bend”) argues that it is “fairly discernable” from the text, structure, and purpose of Title VII that Congress intended to limit jurisdiction in this way, and so presenting a claim before the EEOC should constitute a jurisdictional prerequisite to suit. Lois Davis (“Davis”), who filed a Title VII complaint alleging sexual harassment, retaliation, and religious discrimination while employed by Fort Bend, contends that because Congress has not made a “clear statement” that the administrative exhaustion requirement under Title VII is jurisdictional, jurisdiction should not be limited where the exhaustion requirement has not been met. This case will have implications for the efficiency and costs of administrative actions and Title VII enforcement.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

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.

Lois Davis (“Davis”), an information technology supervisor employed by Fort Bend County (“Fort Bend”), reported to the human resources office that the information technology director (“director”) sexually harassed her. Davis v. Fort Bend County, Texas, 893 F.3d 300, 302 (5th Cir. 2018). The director eventually resigned because of the ensuing investigation.

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