Shutdown Doesn't Stop Employment Law Filing Deadlines

AFP/Getty Images
Thanks to the government shutdown, EEOC's website is down. NLRB's website is also down. You might assume the fact the government is shut down means your deadline for filing claims against your employer is extended. You'd be wrong (maybe). If you have a deadline coming up soon for filing a charge of discrimination with EEOC or a charge against employer with NLRB, you may still have to (somehow) get your filing done in time.

Discrimination claims: EEOC is the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Board. If you have a race, age, sex, religious, disability, color, national origin, genetic information discrimination claim, or a retaliation claim that arises from having objected to discrimination, you MUST file with EEOC first to protect your right to sue your employer. If your deadline is this week (or next week), you may have difficulty. Here's what EEOC says about the shutdown and deadlines:

If you are trying to file a charge of discrimination against a private employer or a state or local government employer, please remember that there are specific time limits. The time limits depend on where the employer is located or where the alleged discrimination took place. Generally, charges have to be filed within 300 days of the incident. However, if you are in a state where there is no state fair employment practice agency (North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, or Arkansas), the time limit for filing a charge is 180 days. These time limits may not be extended because of the shut-down.

Therefore, if you are within 30 days of your time expiring or you are unsure when your time expires; you should not wait until we reopen to begin the process.

They suggest starting the process by filling in their online questionnaire, which is fine if you still have lots of time left. You still have to file the actual charge of discrimination on time. If you're right on a deadline, then you have some options:

  • Go to your local EEOC office: EEOC's contingency plan says, "EEOC will: preserve the rights of aggrieved individuals under the federal employment discrimination statutes by docketing new charges and federal sector appeals; continue to litigate lawsuits where a continuance has not been granted; examine new charges to determine whether prompt judicial action is necessary to protect life or property and, if appropriate, file such action to obtain preliminary relief; maintain the integrity and viability of EEOC's information systems; maintain the security of our offices and property; and perform necessary administrative support to carry out those excepted functions. The bulk of these activities would be handled by staff in our field offices." Hopefully, your local office still has staff on duty doing intake.
  • File with your state agency: Many state agencies have agreements with EEOC where filing with the state agency is automatically a filing with EEOC. If you don't have a state agency, then you'll have to be even more creative.
  • Fax them: EEOC's website still has the list of regional offices up. If you click on your region, you'll see a fax number. I haven't tried to see if the faxes are turned off, but if you get lucky, you'll be able to fax your charge of discrimination and get a receipt with proof it went through.
  • Fed Ex: If you send the charge of discrimination through Fed Ex, UPS or another service that provides return service, you will at least have proof that you got it there on time. Hopefully a court (and EEOC) will accept this as proof you were timely.
Unfair labor practices claims: NLRB is the National Labor Relations Board. They handle complaints of unfair dealings between unions and employers. However, most people don't realize they also handle complaints of unfair labor practices in non-unionized workplaces. If your employer has fired or retaliated against you for objecting to or discussing working conditions with coworkers, you have 6 months from the date of the unfair practice to file a charge against employer. NLRB cannot give additional time. Here's what they say you should do:

[P]ersons wishing to file a charge pursuant to Section 10(b) of the Act, and for whom the 6 month period of Section 10(b) may expire during the interruption in the Board's normal operations, are cautioned that the operation of Section 10(b) during an interruption in the Board's normal operations is uncertain.

Consequently, it would be prudent to file the charge during the interruption in the Board's operations by faxing a copy of the charge to the appropriate Regional Office. The fax numbers for Regional Offices may be found on the Agency's website,

Moreover, persons filing a charge are reminded that it is their responsibility, pursuant to Section 102.14 of the Board's Rules and Regulations, 29 C.F.R. 102.14, to serve a copy of the charge upon the person against whom the charge is made. While Regional Directors ordinarily serve a copy of the charge on a person against whom the charge is made as a matter of courtesy, they do not assume responsibility for such service, and it is unlikely that the Agency will be able to serve charges during any period of shutdown due to a lapse in appropriated funds.

So, fax the charge to NLRB and serve it on your employer too if you want to preserve your claims.

Don't lose out on your right to pursue legal claims against your employer because of the government shutdown. Just because they're closed, doesn't mean you get a pass. Know your deadlines and take responsibility for making sure you file in time.

If you need legal advice, it's best to talk to an employment lawyer in your state, but if you have general legal issues you want me to discuss publicly here, whether about discrimination, working conditions, employment contracts, medical leave, or other employment law issues, you can ask me at AOL Jobs. While I can't answer every question here, your question might be featured in one of my columns, or in our upcoming live video chat.
Read Full Story