Eleventh Circuit Holds Filing of Charge with EEOC Constitutes An “Administrative Proceeding”

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, applying Georgia law, has held in affirming a lower court’s opinion that an employee’s filing of a charge with the EEOC constitutes an “administrative proceeding,” and thus a “claim” under the policy’s definition. PMTD Rests., LLC v. Houston Cas. Co., 2023 WL 4488189 (11th Cir. July 12, 2023). The EEOC proceeding and a subsequent lawsuit were thus both claims arising from one insured event and deemed made at the time of the EEOC charges, before the relevant policy incepted.

The insured, a restaurant franchise, was insured under an employment practices liability policy providing coverage for employment-based claims of discrimination, among other things. Prior to the policy period, an employee filed with the EEOC a charge of discrimination and a separate charge for retaliation, both of which were dismissed. The insured did not report the matters to its carrier. During the policy period, the employee filed a lawsuit, asserting claims for discrimination and retaliation.

In coverage litigation, the insured and carrier agreed that the EEOC matters and lawsuit were related to one another, but disagreed as to whether the filing of an EEOC charge constituted a “claim” such that the entire “claim” was deemed first made before the policy period. The definition of a “claim” included “any administrative proceeding including but not limited to the [EEOC].” The issue in dispute was whether an employee’s filing of an EEOC charge constitutes an “administrative proceeding” or whether the matter becomes a “proceeding” at the point the EEOC issues a “Letter of Determination.”

The Eleventh Circuit considered the ordinary meaning of the phrase, “administrative proceeding,” which encompasses an agency’s investigation. The court held that, “[b]ecause a charge of discrimination filed with the EEOC triggers an EEOC investigation into the alleged acts of discrimination, the filing of an EEOC charge qualifies as a ‘claim’ under the Policy.” As a result, the claim was not first made during the policy period.

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