Relation back doctrine in EEOC complaint does not allow filing of new claim elements says 14th Court of Appeals

The City of Sugar Land v. Leon Kaplan, 14-14-00292-CV (Tex. App. Houston [14th], October 16, 2014).

This is an age/disability discrimination case where the 14th District held the Plaintiff was required to assert his claim in an administrative complaint filed within 180 days from the date of his termination and failed to do so.

Kaplan, a 69 year old employee with high blood pressure and diabetes, was an administrative manager of the City’s Parks and Recreations Department who was terminated. Kaplan filed an administrative complaint within 180 days but only asserted age discrimination. The right-to-sue letter from the EEOC only listed age discrimination. The City filed a plea to the jurisdiction asserting a failure to exhaust administrative remedies as to disability, but Kaplan asserted it related back to his age claim and filed a new EEOC complaint as to disability. The trial court denied the plea and the City appealed.

The mandatory filing of an administrative complaint is a jurisdictional/statutory prerequisite to suit. Kaplan failed to timely file such a complaint as to disability. The charge must contain an adequate factual basis to put the employer on notice of the existence and nature of the claims against it.  The relation back doctrine allows a plaintiff to amend facts which relate back to the original complaint, it does not permit the filing of a separate charge. The plea should have been granted so the court reversed and rendered.

If you would like to read this opinion click here. Panel: Chief Justice Frost, Justice Christopher and Justice Busby.  Opinion by Justice Christopher. The attorney listed for the City is William Helfand.  The attorney listed for Kaplan is Peter  Bennett.