Legal Definition of Exhaust Administrative Remedies
In order to litigate a Title VII claim in federal district court, Greenlaw must have exhausted her administrative remedies.5 min read
In order to litigate a Title VII claim in federal district court, Greenlaw must have exhausted her administrative remedies, Brown v. General Services Administration, 425 U.S. 820, 832 (1976), including regulatory and judicially imposed exhaustion requirements. She must have pursued her administrative claim with diligence and in good faith. Vinieratos v. United States Air Force, 939 F.2d 762, 771 (9th Cir.'91). A plaintiff may not cut short the administrative process prior to its final disposition, for upon abandonment a claimant fails to exhaust administrative relief and may not thereafter seek redress from the courts. Purtill v. Harris, 658 F.2d 134, 138 (3rd Cir.'81), cert. denied, 462 U.S. 1131 (1983); See Rivera v. United States Postal Service, 830 F.2d 1037, 1039 (9th Cir.) (claimant who withdrew his administrative claim prior to final disposition failed to exhaust administrative relief and claim was properly dismissed by the district court), cert. denied, 486 U.S. 1009 (1987).
In Wrenn, the Second Circuit confronted a litigious pro se claimant whose antics, involving forty-plus civil rights complaints filed in a multitude of circuits, were described as wasting judicial resources and resulting in a 'dead-weight social loss except for giving satisfaction to litigants who prefer court proceedings to administrative relief.' Id. at 1078. Given this atmosphere, the Second Circuit reflected on the judicially elaborated Title VII exhaustion requirements of cooperation and good faith, and concluded: The purpose of the good faith participation requirement is to give the administrative process an opportunity to work and to enhance the chances of administrative resolution. It follows that a claimant who is offered full relief in the administrative process must either accept the relief offered or abandon the claim. To allow claimants such as Wrenn to continue to pursue claims that have been fully remedied during the administrative process would frustrate the congressional policy favoring administrative resolution of complaints for no discernible reason. . . . [L]itigation is not a sport in which the hunter may release a trapped quarry for the thrill of further chase. Id. at 1078-79 (emphasis added).
In Wrenn, the plaintiff applied for, but failed to obtain employment with the Department of Veterans Affairs as a temporary clerk-typist. The agency made an 'offer of full relief' to hire him as a Clerk-Typist, Temporary; to give him full back pay and any seniority that he may have earned. Wrenn rejected the offer and demanded that he be hired as a permanent employee in grade GS-9 or higher, that he be granted full relief for willful denial of his rights, and that seniority be backdated to include previous federal employment and his combat service in South Vietnam. The offer in Wrenn was obviously 'full relief,' but the Wrenn court failed to consider circumstances where an offer might be less clear cut.
Congress created a remedial scheme under Title VII to serve the lay person. Love v. Pullman Co., 404 U.S. 522, 527 (1972). Congress intended that Title VII proceedings be navigable by pro se claimants. Stache v. Intern. Bricklayers Union, 852 F.2d 1231, 1233-34 (9th Cir. 1988), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 815 (1989). Although Congress provided for administrative relief, it intended that Title VII claimants have access to the courts and that the federal courts ultimately be responsible for enforcing civil rights. Alexander v. Gardner-Denver Co., 415 U.S. 36 (1974), abrogated on other grounds, Gilmer v. Interstate/Johnson-Lane Corp., 500 U.S. 20 (1991). After proceeding administratively, a claimant is entitled to a trial de novo in federal court, meaning a trial on the merits; not de novo review of an administrative record. 42 U.S.C. S 2000e-16(c); Chandler v. Roudebush, 425 U.S. 840, 863-64 (1976).
Congress passed the Equal Employment Opportunity Act (EEOA) to bring federal employees within the rubric of Title VII. Clark v. Chasen, 619 F.2d 1330, 1334 (9th Cir.'80). By adopting, the EEOA, Congress intended to minimize differences between private and federal employees, especially judicial barriers of sovereign immunity and administrative exhaustion faced by federal employees. Id. (citing S.Rep.No.415, 92d Cong., 1st Sess. 16 (1971); H.R.Rep.No.238, 92d Cong., 1st Sess. 23 (1971); U.S. Code Cong. & Admin. News 1972, pp. 2137, 2158). In Clark, this circuit specifically rejected extension of judicial exhaustion requirements of administrative cooperation. The court refused to differentiate between federal and private-sector employees and held that extending jurisdictional burdens beyond those specifically designated by statute would upset the balance struck by Congress between administrative interests and interests in eradicating employment discrimination. Id.*fn13 Wrenn accomplishes what Clark refused to do.*fn14 See e.g., Long v. Ringling Bros.-Barnum & Bailey Shows Inc., 9 F.3d 340, 341-43 (4th Cir.'93) (private-sector employee need only meet statutory jurisdictional requisites to file action in district court; Wrenn does not apply to private-sector employee who rejects offer of full relief, employee is entitled to trial de novo).
Since laypersons initiate the administrative process for resolving employment discrimination complaints, the procedural requirements for Title VII actions are 'neither interpreted too technically nor applied too mechanically.' Ong v. Cleland, 642 F.2d 316, 319 (9th Cir.'81) (quoting Richardson v. Jones, 572 F.2d 89, 96 (3rd Cir.'78) (citing as in accord, Clark, 619 F.2d at 1332 n.7; Ramirez v. National Distillers & Chemical Corp., 586 F.2d 1315, 1321 (9th Cir.'78)). Procedurally, a Title VII complainant must seek counselling within 30 days of an alleged violation, 29 C.F.R. S 1613.214(a)(i), and within 15 days after completing counselling, complainant must file a formal EEO complaint with the agency, S 1613.214(a)(ii). Within 30 days of receiving notice of final action, *fn15 an employee 'if aggrieved by the final disposition of his complaint . . . may file a civil action. . . .' 42 U.S.C. S 2000e-16(c). The regulations provide that if a certified offer of full relief is rejected by the claimant, the agency may cancel the complaint. S 1613.215(a)7. Upon cancellation, the agency must notify the claimant that he or she is entitled to file an action in federal court, S 1613.281(a), or that claimant may first file an appeal with the EEOC before proceeding with a civil action. S 1613.233. The jurisdictional bar imposed under Wrenn directly conflicts with the statutory and regulatory provisions for judicial access and stands in stark contrast to the agency's cancellation notice which assures claimants of their right to sue.