To bring a claim for discrimination or retaliation, an employee must timely file their claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (usually within 180 days). The timeliness of their claim depends, however, on what constitutes the final discriminatory act in a given case. The U.S. Supreme Court in Green v. Brennan recently defined the last discriminatory act in constructive discharge claims in a way that does not benefit employers. “Constructive discharge” occurs when an employer makes an employee’s working conditions so unpleasant that a reasonable person in the employee’s position would feel compelled to resign. A constructive discharge is treated similarly to a termination for purposes of Title VII and most state laws. The plaintiff in Green alleged constructive discharge, claiming his employer had created an untenable working environment for him. The employer moved for summary judgment, alleging that Green had failed to file his claim timely. While Green’s claim was clearly timely if measured from the date of his resignation, the claim was untimely if measured from the date of the last allegedly discriminatory act. The trial court and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals both found that Green’s time to file started running with the last alleged discriminatory act. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed, finding that the time to file actually started with Green’s resignation. Green v. Brennan, Postmaster General No. 14-613 (May 23, 2016).
Impact: Because of the Supreme Court’s decision, employees now have more time to file their claims for constructive discharge.
Mark T. Kobata and Marty Denis are partners at the law firm Barlow, Kobata and Denis, which has offices in Beverly Hills, California, and Chicago. Comment below, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.