SW Legal studies in Business

Negative Finding by EEOC May Not Be Introduced at Trial
Description

After an EEO office issued a no reasonable cause of action letter based on its review of a discrimination compliant, the plaintiff sued for discrimination anyway. The trial court admitted into evidence the negative finding of the EEO office. Appeals court held it impermissible to enter the letter into evidence.

Topic Employment Discrimination
Key Words

Disability Discrimination; Reasonable Cause Letter; HIV

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Byrd worked for a Wendy's restaurant in Florida. When hired, she told her supervisor she was HIV positive. About six months later, she suffered illness off and on, forcing her to miss work. Each time, she followed procedure and produced a note from a doctor. On one occasion a dispute arose over whether or not her absence was justified, and she was fired. She filed a complaint with the Broward County Civil Rights Division. It investigated the matter and issued a "Notice of Determination" letter that stated there was "no reasonable cause" to believe Byrd had suffered discrimination based on her disability. She sued for failure of Wendy's to accommodate her disability. At trial, the no reasonable cause letter was entered into evidence. The jury held for Wendy's. Byrd appealed.

Decision

Reversed and remanded. The standard of evidence used by the EEOC in reasonable cause letters is not the same as the standard used in court. Hence, the letters seldom pass the test of evidentiary admissibility. A negative letter, as in this case, may prejudice the jury. It was not a harmless error to allow the letter into evidence; hence a new trial is warranted.

Citation

Byrc v. BT Foods, Inc, ---So.2d--- (2009 WL 4282945, Ct. App., Fla., 2008)

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