Arizona Ex Rel. Horne v. The Geo Group

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Employment Law
  • Date Filed: 03-14-2016
  • Case #: 13-16292
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Callahan for the Court; Circuit Judges Reinhardt and Tashima
  • Full Text Opinion

In a class action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 aggrieved persons must allege acts within 300 days of the alleged unlawful employment practice; however, if they fail to do this they may piggyback their claim onto the timely charge filed by another plaintiff in order to fulfill exhaustion of administrative remedies.

Alice Hancock complained to her employer, Geo, that coworker Robert Kroen grabbed her crotch and pinched her vagina, but Geo failed to remedy the harassment. Three months after Hancock was placed on administrative leave for allegedly making offensive comments, she filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Arizona Civil Rights Division (The Division) (collectively the plaintiffs). The Plaintiffs made a Reasonable Cause Determination, finding Geo had violated employment rights of Hancock and similarly situated corrections officers and brought a suit for a class of female employees under Title VII and the Arizona Civil Rights Act (ACRA). The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Geo, dismissed allegations of employees who had not alleged acts within 300 days of the Reasonable Cause Determination, and dismissed the hostile work environment claim by employee Hines, for failure to assert a hostile work environment claim. The district court held the plaintiffs must conciliate on an individual basis before bringing a class action lawsuit. The Ninth Circuit held this was error because if the plaintiffs were obligated to pursue individual conciliation they would essentially be barred from obtaining relief of any person not named when they filed suit. Secondly, the panel held that an aggrieved person must only file a charge within 300 days of the alleged unlawful employment practice, and not the Reasonable Cause Determination. Even if an aggrieved employee did not file in time they could piggyback onto the timely charge filed by another plaintiff to fulfill exhaustion of administrative remedies. The panel held that Hines presented material issues of fact as to whether she was subject to a hostile work environment because she alleged that coworker Hilsden made unwanted physical contact with her and made inappropriate sexual comments to her, sufficient to prove severity and pervasiveness. VACATED and REMANDED.

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