The case on which this summary is based may no longer be current law.
Also, if the case was decided on summary judgment, the court recited the
"facts" in the light most favorable to the non-movant, which may not be
the true facts.
Fitzgerald v. Secretary, U.S. Dept. of Veterans
Affairs, 121 F.3d 203 (5th Cir. September 5, 1997)
Title VII (failure to exhaust administrative remedies, Federal employees, offer
of full relief)
Introduction: Michael Fitzgerald, a black male, sued his employer, the
VA, under Title VII for racial harassment. The district court dismissed the suit because a
federal employee's rejection of an "offer of full relief" constitutes a failure
to exhaust administrative remedies. The Fifth Circuit affirms. This case summary does not
address Fitzgerald's state law claim.
Facts: There are no additional facts relevant to this case summary.
- Federal employees claiming illegal discrimination must first consult
with an EEO counselor within the employing agency.
- If the EEO counselor is unable to resolve the matter informally, the
counselor notifies the employee of his right to file a formal administrative complaint
with the employing agency.
- After investigating the complaint, the employing agency may attempt to
settle the matter by making an offer of "full relief" to the complainant.
- If the complaining employee refuses to accept an offer that has been
certified as an offer of "full relief" by the EEOC, the employing agency must
dismiss the employee's complaint.
- The employee may then seek EEOC review of the dismissal, and may also
bring suit in federal district court. If, upon de novo review, the district court
also concludes that the agency's offer constitutes full relief, then the court must
dismiss the complaint for failure to exhaust administrative remedies.
- Fitzgerald contends that the VA's settlement proposal was not an offer
of full relief because it did not offer him compensatory damages of emotional injuries
that allegedly led to his hospitalization.
- Fitzgerald further argues that although he never specifically asked for
compensatory damages during the administrative proceedings, those damages cannot be
awarded in administrative proceedings -- only in actions brought in federal district
court. Therefore, he was under no compulsion to ask for damages which the employing agency
or the EEOC did not have the power to give.
- The Fifth Circuit holds that compensatory damages can be awarded in
administrative proceedings; that an aggrieved employee must inform the agency or the EEOC
that he suffered an injury which entitles him to compensatory damages; or for example, he
must at least provide information that he was hospitalized as a result of illegal
harassment (which then shifts the burden to the employing agency to investigate whether
the employee is entitled to compensatory damages).
- In this case, Fitzgerald did not ask for compensatory damages or provide
factual information that should have caused the employing agency to investigate whether he
was entitled to compensatory damages. Therefore, based upon a de novo review, the
Fifth Circuit affirms the district court's dismissal based on Fitzgerald's failure to
exhaust administrative remedies.
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