Supreme Court Urged To Reaffirm Limitations For Discrimination Claims
Washington, D.C., — The National Federation of Independent BusinessSmall Business Legal Center is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to reaffirm that all Title VII charges of discrimination must be filed with the EEOC within 300 days of an alleged discriminatory practice in order to remain timely.
This term, the Supreme Court will be deciding a case based on consequences from unintentional discrimination otherwise known as disparate impact claims. The court must determine whether the statute of limitations period set out in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act begins to run for disparate impact claims at the announcement of the alleged discriminatory practice, or if the limitation period begins to run anew with each use of the practice.
The case, Lewis v. City of Chicago, was brought by a class of African-American plaintiffs who were denied consideration for firefighter positions with the city based on the results of a written test. The plaintiffs were informed of the results of the test on January 26, 1996, and they waited until March 31, 1997 – approximately 420 days from the date the city notified the plaintiffs of their test results – to file the first of several EEOC charges alleging disparate impact discrimination. Plaintiffs argue that their claims are timely due to the city’s continued reliance on the test results when making hiring decisions.
The district court accepted this argument, but the decision was reversed by the Seventh Circuit, which found that the plaintiffs failed to file their claims within Title VII’s established statute of limitations. This decision has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and NFIB filed an amicus brief supporting the city’s position that the plaintiffs’ failed to file a timely claim.
The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that consequences of unchallenged past acts have no legal effect under Title VII for claims based on intentional discrimination known as disparate treatment claims. And since the text of Title VII makes no distinction between disparate treatment and disparate impact claims in regards to filing deadlines, NFIB argues that the court should reiterate their interpretation of the law and refuse to judicially expand the deadline for when claimants must file a charge with the EEOC for disparate impact claims.
“Expanding the statutory deadline for filing disparate impact charges with the EEOC would be very burdensome on small business owners who would be forced to defend stale claims,” said Karen Harned, executive director, NFIB Small Business Legal Center.
“Statutes of limitations are key to curbing lawsuit abuse,” said Harned. “The time limits for filing a charge with the EEOC were included in Title VII in part to help employers defend themselves against allegations of discrimination occurring in the distant past. Employers’ rights are eroded when statutes of limitations are expanded. Small business owners deserve better. We urge the Supreme Court to preserve the rights’ of employers and reaffirm that the time limit for filing a Title VII charge of discrimination begins to run for disparate impact claims at the announcement of the alleged discriminatory practice.”