Employment-First Circuit Rules That ADA Claim Is Time-Barred Due To Failure To File Suit Within 90 Days Of Receiving The Right-To-Sue Letter

In Loubriel v. Fondo Del Seguro Del Estado, No. 11-1555 (1st Cir. 2012), the plaintiff, Advilda Loubriel (“Loubriel”), filed suit against the Puerto Rico State Insurance Fund (the “Fund”) under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (the “ADA). The district court dismissed the suit, on the grounds that it was time-barred. Loubriel appealed.

Loubriel had been employed by the Fund. In January of 2008, Loubriel requested 45 days of sick leave to deal with certain medical problems. The Fund denied her request. On May 8, 2009, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the “EEOC”), without resolving the merits of the claim, issued Loubriel a right-to-sue letter, and mailed copies of it to the Loubriel, her attorney, and the Fund. The notice clearly stated that Loubriel’s Title I/ADA action against her employer had to be filed within 90 days of receipt. Loubriel asserts that she did not receive her copy of the letter until September 10, 2009. Loubriel filed her suit against the Fund on September 29, 2009 , which is 144 days after the EEOC sent the letter. The question for the First Circuit Court of Appeals (the “Court”): Is Loubriel’s suit against the Fund time-barred?

In analyzing the case, the Court noted that, although Loubriel’s discrimination claim is brought under the ADA, it is nonetheless governed by the procedural requirements of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. One such requirement contemplates that, upon a claimant’s exhaustion of administrative remedies, the EEOC will inform the claimant, in the form of a right-to-sue letter that she has 90 days within which to bring a civil action. If the claimant does not bring suit within the prescribed 90-day period, the action is time-barred.

Here, the EEOC mailed the right-to-sue letter on May 8, 2009, yet Loubriel did not file her suit until September 29 of that year. To explain this delay, Loubriel suggests that she did not receive the right-to-sue letter until September 10, so she met the 90-day filing deadline. But the right-to-sue letter was sent to Loubriel’s attorney. By law, receipt of the letter by the attorney is treated as receipt by Loubriel. Although the record does not show the actual date the attorney received the letter, there is a presumption that, in the absence of evidence to the contrary (and there was none here), a notice provided by a government agency is deemed to have been placed in the mail on the date shown on the notice and received within a reasonable time thereafter, e.g., within 3 to 5 days after the mailing date. Thus, receipt of the letter in this case is deemed to be no later than mid-May, and Loubriel’s filing the case on September 29 would not be within the 90-day filing period. Therefore, the Court concluded that Loubriel’s suit was time-barred, and it affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the case.