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TAYLOR v. HENDERSON

June 8, 2000

PIERRE C. TAYLOR, PLAINTIFF,
V.
WILLIAM J. HENDERSON, POSTMASTER GENERAL, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Peck, United States Magistrate Judge.

OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Pierre C. Taylor brought this Title VII action against the United States Postal Service for race discrimination in employment arising out of disciplinary action against him following a confrontation with a coworker on June 18, 1997. (Id. at 3-4.) Presently before the Court is the Postal Service's motion to dismiss, arguing that Taylor failed to exhaust available administrative remedies by failing to comply with the deadline for filing an agency complaint and allegedly ignoring requests for information from Postal Service Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEO") investigators.*fn1 Taylor answered the Postal Service's arguments by asserting that he never received communications from the EEO investigator.

For the reasons set forth below, the Postal Service's motion is DENIED. While it is disputed whether Taylor failed to cooperate or never received the written request for information, that factual dispute is not material. The Postal Service EEO office did not ask Taylor for information until long after 180 days from the time he filed his EEO complaint, and therefore Taylor had a right to sue once the 180 days had passed. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16(c).

BACKGROUND

The undisputed facts material to the pending motion are as follows:

This lawsuit stems from an altercation between Taylor and a co-worker on June 18, 1997, as a result of which Taylor was suspended for seven days, from September 6, 1997 to September 13, 1997. (Compl. ¶¶ 5, 8; Anderson Aff.Ex. A: Investigative File Exhibits, 6/19/97 Memo to Pierre Taylor.) On June 18, 1997, Taylor initiated an informal complaint and counseling with the Postal Service's EEO office. (Gov't Br. at 15; Anderson Aff.Ex. A: Counselor Reports, "Informal Complaint of Discrimination.") On August 22, 1997, after his final interview with the counselor, Taylor received and signed notice of his right to file a formal complaint of discrimination within 15 days. (Id.) Seventeen days later, on Monday, September 8, 1997, he hand delivered a formal complaint, dated as of September 6, 1997, to the EEO office. (Gov't Br. at 5-6; Anderson Aff.Ex. A: Formal Complaint.) The Postal Service EEO office informed Taylor by letter dated September 18, 1997 that two of his allegations had been dismissed but that his main complaint, that he was improperly suspended, would be investigated. (Gov't Br. at 6; Anderson Aff. Ex. A: Issues to be Investigated, 9/18/97 Letter to Taylor.) That letter also advised Taylor to "be prepared to go forward with your case when the EEO Counselor/Investigator contacts you." (Id.)

Nothing further happened until one year later. On September 18, 1998, the EEO investigator requested by certified mail a sworn affidavit from Taylor and scheduled a meeting with him. (See Gov't Br. at 7-8; Anderson Aff.Ex. A: Miscellaneous Correspondence, 9/18/98 Letter to Taylor.) The letter was returned unopened and the meeting never took place. (Id.) A second letter was sent on October 7, 1998, but the parties dispute whether Taylor ever received it. (Id.; Taylor 5/2/00 Aff. ¶¶ 2-3.)

ANALYSIS

The Postal Service moves to dismiss, alleging that Taylor failed to exhaust his administrative remedies by: (1) filing an untimely formal EEO complaint more than 15 days after his final EEO counseling interview in 1997 (Gov't Br. at 13-18), and (2) failing to respond to the EEO office's requests for information in September 1998 (id. at 19-23).

I. TAYLOR FILED HIS FORMAL POSTAL SERVICE EEO COMPLAINT WITHIN THE REQUIRED FIFTEEN-DAY LIMIT

Under the relevant regulations, a postal employee who believes that he or she has been discriminated against must contact an EEO counselor within 45 days of the date of the alleged discriminatory incident or personnel action. 29 C.F.R. § 1614.105(a)(1); see generally 29 C.F.R. § 1614.101 et seq. If counseling is not successful, the counselor is required to inform the aggrieved employee that he or she has a right to file a formal EEO complaint. 29 C.F.R. § 1614.105(d). The employee's receipt of this notice triggers a 15-day period within which to file a formal EEO complaint. 29 C.F.R. § 1614.106(b). Failure to comply with these time limits is grounds for the EEO office to dismiss the complaint without a hearing. 29 C.F.R. § 1614.107(a)(2).

The Postal Service argues that "[h]aving received the Notice of Right to File on August 22, plaintiff therefore had until September 6, 1997 to file a formal EEO complaint. However, plaintiff did not file his EEO complaint until September 8, 1997, when he hand-delivered the complaint to the EEO office." (Gov't Br. at 15-16; accord, Gov't Reply Br. at 3.)

In the words of Dr. John H. Watson, "`As to your dates, that is the biggest mystification of all,'" to which Sherlock Holmes responded "`Well, now, let us take the dates first.'" Arthur Conan Doyle, "The Adventure of the Creeping Man" in The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes. To go from the literary to the instant case, fifteen days from August 22, 1997 was September 6, 1997, a Saturday. Since the deadline fell on a Saturday, it was extended as a matter of law to Monday, September 8, 1997. 29 C.F.R. ยง ...


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