Daily Labor Report®

Fired Kellogg Worker’s Sex Harassment Suit Filed Too Late

Jan. 17, 2019, 9:21 PM

Kellogg Co. won’t have to face a fired employee’s sexual harassment, race discrimination, and retaliation claims because he filed his lawsuit too late and didn’t follow proper administrative procedures.

The case is an example of the issues that arise out of the timing of right-to-sue letters from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The EEOC issued a right-to-sue letter to Lenworth Bunting on May 15, 2017, and there’s a presumption that he received it three days later on May 18, 2017. Bunting had 90 days from that date to file his lawsuit.

But he claimed he didn’t physically have the letter until May 30, 2017, because he was seldom at his residential address. Courts have grappled with whether a letter is considered received on the date actually obtained, on on the date it would have been obtained by someone acting diligently.

But even assuming that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964’s limitations period started May 30, Bunting was required to file his Title VII claims in federal court on or before Aug. 28, 2017. He filed his complaint Aug. 29.

Title VII’s time limits are strict and can’t be extended by even one day without a recognized equitable reason, even in a pro se case like this one, the U.S. Court for the District of Connecticut ruled Jan. 16.

Bunting didn’t act diligently when he ignored the letter’s clear instructions to file his federal lawsuit within 90 days of receiving it, the court said.

The court also noted Bunting had filed timely Title VII claims in federal court before.

Kellogg is entitled to judgment on the race discrimination claim because Bunting didn’t first bring that claim before the appropriate administrative agency, the court said.

Bunting was fired after a physical altercation with a co-worker, who Bunting said sexually assaulted him by grabbing his chest and bottom. The co-worker told Kellogg managers he accidentally bumped into Bunting, and Bunting responded by punching and choking him, according to the court.

Bunting represented himself. Barnes & Thornburg LLP and Ouellette, Deganis & Gallagher, LLC represented Kellogg Corp.

The case is Bunting v. Kellogg’s Corp., 2019 BL 15129, D. Conn., No. 17-01445, 1/16/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Julie Steinberg in Washington at jsteinberg@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com

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