Earlier today, the U.S. Supreme Court clarified the limitations period for a federal employee’s constructive discharge claim under federal law. Circuit courts and federal agencies were split regarding whether the 45-day limitations period begins on the date of the employer’s last discriminatory act or on the date the employee resigns as a result of the employer’s discrimination.
In Green v. Brennan, the plaintiff worked for the United States Postal Service for 35 years. He claims that he was passed over for a promotion because of his race. After he complained, his supervisors accused him of the criminal offense of intentionally delaying the mail. The plaintiff alleges that this was retaliatory. The Postal Service and the plaintiff eventually signed an agreement – the Postal Service agreed not to pursue criminal charges and the plaintiff agreed to retire within the next few months. The plaintiff accordingly submitted his resignation paperwork a couple of months later.
The plaintiff contacted an Equal Employment Opportunity counselor 96 days after he signed the agreement and 41 days after he submitted his resignation paperwork. The Postal Service argued that the plaintiff failed to timely file his claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The Supreme Court held that the plaintiff’s 45-day limitations period began on the date he gave notice of his resignation because an employee’s resignation is part of the “matter alleged to be discriminatory” in a constructive discharge claim. The Supreme Court also noted that the limitations period begins on the date an employee gives his or her employer “two weeks’ notice,” not on his or her last day of work.
As a reminder, under federal law, the limitations period for non-federal employees is 180 days from the date the discrimination took place. It is extended to 300 days if a state or local agency enforces a law that prohibits employment discrimination on the same basis. However, the limitations period for age discrimination claims is only extended to 300 days if a state law prohibits age discrimination and a state agency enforces the law.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about how this decision may affect you or your business.