SCOTUS clarifies constructive discharge limitations period

The US Supreme Court today held that a federal employee's 45-day limitations period for a constructive discharge claim begins running only after an employee resigns. Green v. Brennan (US Supreme Court 05/23/2016). For Marvin Green, the last allegedly discriminatory act by his employer took place on December 16. The following February 9 Green announced his retirement effective March 31. Green reported an unlawful constructive discharge to an Equal Employment Opportunity counselor on March 22 – 41 days after resigning and 96 days after the last allegedly discriminatory act.

Before a federal employee can sue his employer for violating Title VII, he must, among other things, "initiate contact" with an Equal Employment Opportunity counselor at his agency "within 45 days of the date of the matter alleged to be discriminatory."

The Supreme Court held (7-1) that the 45-day limitations period for a constructive discharge claim begins running only after an employee resigns. This is because part of the "matter alleged to be discriminatory" in a constructive-discharge claim is an employee's resignation.

In dissent, Justice Thomas said: "Today, the majority holds that a 'matter alleged to be discriminatory' includes a matter that is not 'discriminatory' at all: a federal employee's decision to quit his job."

[For recent decisions and pending employment law cases, see Supreme Court Watch.]