Congress Vastly Expands Time to File Discrimination Lawsuits

Since its inception, Title VII has created remedies for any "adverse employment actions" that are  motivated by race, sex or other prohibited reasons.  A string of Supreme Court cases from at least the early 1970's had always held that the statute of limitations for discrimination claims should begin to run from the date of a discriminatory decision was made, regardless of how long the effects of the discrimination might last. 

For example, if a California employee believed that she was denied a promotion because of her sex, she had to file a complaint within 300 days of the promotion denial to challenge the decision.  But no more.  

Under the newly enacted Lilly Ledbetter  Fair Pay Act of 2009, such an employee may file a complaint based on every subsequent paycheck that is allegedly lower due to the prior discrimination.       

For purposes of this section, an unlawful employment practice occurs, with respect to discrimination in compensation in violation of this title, when a discriminatory compensation decision or other practice is adopted, when an individual becomes subject to a discriminatory compensation decision or other practice, or when an individual is affected by application of a discriminatory compensation decision or other practice, including each time wages, benefits, or other compensation is paid, resulting in whole or in part from such a decision or other practice.

The interesting thing about the Act is its inherently retroactive nature.  For example, if an employee was denied a promotion in 1965 her statute of limitations expired approximately 43 years ago.  But if she has been earning less money ever since as a result of that decision, it now appears that a new cause of action has been created for her to sue to based on the lingering present affects of this long-ago discrimination.

The Act amends the statute of limitations rules for Title VII, The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA").  It is also a safe bet that the California Legislature will soon amend the FEHA to add corresponding language.       

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California Labor and Employment Defense Blog - May 19, 2009 10:24 AM
When Congress passed Title VII in 1964 it did not initially ban pregnancy discrimination. In fact, it was not until the passage of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) in 1978 that Congress finally added pregnancy as an expressly protected status....
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