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Federal Express Corp. v. Holowecki

552 U.S. 389 (2008)

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Federal Express Corp. v. Holowecki

United States Supreme Court

552 U.S. 389 (2008)

Facts

Patricia Kennedy (plaintiff) filed an Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) claim in district court against her employer, Federal Express Corporation (FedEx) (defendant). FedEx moved to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that the ADEA required an employee to first file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and that Kennedy had never filed a charge because the EEOC took no action in response to her filing. Kennedy argued that she had filed a charge with the EEOC because the intake questionnaire she submitted listed the statutorily required information and the affidavit requested the EEOC to stop FedEx’s discrimination. Kennedy’s argument was based on the fact that, because the ADEA did not define the term “charge,” the EEOC had promulgated a regulation defining charge as a statement that alleges an employer has engaged in discrimination violative of the ADEA. The regulation identified multiple pieces of information that a charge should include but also stated that a charge was sufficient if it was in writing, named the employer, and described the discriminatory allegations. In response to the litigation, the government submitted an amicus brief expressing the EEOC’s view that (1) not all documents that include the minimal requirements constitute a charge and (2) the test for determining whether a charge has been filed, as documented in the agency’s compliance manual and issued memoranda, is the request-to-act test. Under this test, if the filing is reasonably construed as a request for the agency to take action to protect the employee’s rights, then the filing constitutes a charge. The district court determined that Kennedy had not filed a charge and dismissed the case. The court of appeals reversed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Kennedy, J.)

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