The Supreme Court recently ruled 7-1 to vacate the decision of the Tenth Circuit, much to the joy of employees everywhere. The ruling solidified that in a Title VII constructive discharge claim, the statute of limitations begins running at the time of the employee’s resignation.
The ruling followed Marvin Green, who believed he was denied a promotion due to his race. After vocalizing this, Green, then employed by the U.S. Postal Service, was accused of delaying the mail, a criminal offense. Green settled his grievances with the post office on December 16, 2009. USPS agreed to not press criminal charges against Green, but Green would be forced to retire or accept a position in Wyoming with a reduced salary. Green refused to transfer and instead submitted his resignation on February 9, 2010. Forty-one days later, Green reported an unlawful constructive discharge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Office. This was, however, 96 days after Green had signed his settlement with the USPS. When Green furthered this grievance to the Tenth Circuit Court, it was dismissed as untimely, as they used the 96-day period as measurement.
The Title VII agreement states that a federal employee must contact the EEO “within 45 days of the date of the matter alleged to be discriminatory.” In her written decision, Justice Sotomayor stated that given the standard rule, the Court held that “the matter alleged to be discriminatory” does in fact include the employee’s resignation. In matters of constructive discharge, the 45-day period, then, begins only after the employee resigns. The Court maintained that the standard rule holds true, having found nothing to disrupt it. Therefore, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Tenth Circuit yet left determining the date of Green’s resignation to the Tenth Circuit. Despite the Supreme Court’s reversal, the Tenth Circuit did hold that the plaintiff’s resignation was untimely in regards to constructive discharge filing.
So, what impact does this have on federal employees? These employees now have a minimized limitations period if they are subjected to discrimination. This benefits them in many ways, including avoided consequences in future job applications. It’s also important to note that though Green was a federal employee, the Supreme Court mentioned that private employees should be treated equally, as their limitations period is “identical in operation.” In short, employees everywhere gained security against workplace discrimination with this ruling.
If you’ve been the victim of workplace discrimination and need assistance navigating Title VII discharges, contact a Goosmann Law Firm attorney today.