On October 27, 2016, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of summary judgment in a lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) on the ground that the plaintiff’s charge of disability discrimination was untimely. Carlson v. Christian Brothers Services, No. 15-3807 (7th Cir. 10/27/2016). The plaintiff, a customer service representative, filed this lawsuit against her former employer alleging disability discrimination. She was in an automobile accident, as a result of which she had to use a cane, and limped. She alleged that she was fired because of a perceived disability–mobility impairment–in violation of the ADA. The courts did not reach the merits of this case because it was thrown out of court based on the untimeliness of the underlying charge of discrimination.
The filing of a charge of discrimination with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) or the Illinois Department of Human Rights (“IDHR”) is a prerequisite to filing a lawsuit in court. In this case the plaintiff filed a Complainant Information Sheet (“CIS”) with the IDHR within the deadline, but filed her Charge of Discrimination after the deadline. The plaintiff (and the EEOC) argued that the CIS constitutes a charge and, therefore, the charge was timely. However, the 7th Circuit held that a CIS is not the equivalent of a charge unless it requests relief. The plaintiff’s CIS did not request any relief; consequently, it was not a charge. Thus, she failed to exhaust her administrative remedies before filing suit, and the dismissal of her suit as untimely was warranted.