Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) protects against discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. There are many different bases for bringing a claim under Title VII, including but not limited to, discriminatory termination, discriminatory failure to promote, discriminatory failure to hire, and retaliation. Before an employee can pursue a lawsuit under Title VII, an employee must go through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). The EEOC is a federal agency that investigates, among other things, claims of discrimination under Title VII. Once the EEOC concludes its investigation, the agency will often issue what is known as a “Right to Sue Notice.” This notice affords an employee the opportunity to file a lawsuit in federal court against his or her employer regarding the allegations set before the EEOC. However, before filing a lawsuit, employees must ensure they meet the federal jurisdictional requirements.
There are three (3) important jurisdictional requirements that must be met to assert Title VII claims in federal court. The first is what is known as “subject matter jurisdiction.” Subject matter jurisdiction ensures that the court has grounds to hear the subject matter of the case. All federal courts have subject matter jurisdiction over Title VII claims because Title VII is a federal law, and thus it involves a federal question. Second, the court must have personal jurisdiction over the employer. Personal jurisdiction allows a court to determine the rights and liabilities of the parties involved in the lawsuit. Thus, the court must have some connection to the parties. Typically, a court has personal jurisdiction over an employer if the employer does business within that district or, if the incident made the basis of the lawsuit is related to the employer’s contacts with the district. Lastly, the court must be the proper venue. Title VII has its own venue provision, which supersedes the general federal venue rules.
Title VII Venue
After an employees has ensured that the court has or will have both subject matter jurisdiction to hear the claim and personal jurisdiction over the employer, an employee must ensure that he or she is filing the lawsuit in the correct court. Under Title VII, an employee may sue his or her employer in one of the following locations: (1) in any district court in a state where the alleged Title VII violation occurred; (2) in the judicial district where the employment records that pertain to the alleged Title VII violation are maintained; (3) in the judicial district where the plaintiff would have worked had there been no Title VII violation; and, if none of the previous three conditions exist, (4) in the judicial district where the defendant’s principal office is located. Therefore, in order to keep a lawsuit in federal court, an employee must file the lawsuit in a court that meets one of these requirements.
Once a lawsuit is filed against an employer, the employer can ask the court to dismiss the case on the grounds that one of the above three (3) mentioned jurisdictional requirements has not been satisfied. However, some of these issues must be raised immediately or the employer is considered to have waived them. Both personal jurisdiction and venue issues must be raised immediately, before the employer answers the employee’s filed complaint. However, an employer can raise subject matter jurisdiction issues at any time throughout the life of the lawsuit.
If you feel your rights under Title VII have been violated, or if you have any other questions regarding your employment rights, please contact the experienced Birmingham employment law attorneys at Michel | King. You can contact us either online or by calling us at (205) 319-9724. We are here to serve you.