Legal Memorandum: Complaint for a Continuing Violation

Issue: Does a plaintiff has a valid complaint for a ‘continuing violation’ of Title VII if defendant’s discriminatory conduct that began prior to the filing period is part of an alleged ongoing practice or pattern that continued into the filing period?

Area of Law: Employee Law, Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Employment discrimination; Continuing violation
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: 455 U.S. 385
Cited Statutes: 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)
Date: 06/01/2007

Although 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e) provides that a charge of employment discrimination must be filed within 300 days after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred, the Supreme Court recognizes that this “is a requirement that, like a statute of limitation, is subject to waiver, estoppel and equitable tolling.”  Zipes v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 455 U.S. 385, 393 (1982). 

Courts also recognize that one of the equitable exceptions to the ordinary timely filing requirement is the “continuing violation theory.”  West v. Philadelphia Elec. Co., 45 F. 3d 744, 754 (3d Cir. 1995).

Under this theory, the plaintiff may pursue a Title VII claim for discriminatory conduct that began prior to the filing period if he can demonstrate that the act is part of an ongoing practice or pattern of discrimination of the defendant.  In fact, in Bronze Shields, [Inc. v. New Jersey Dept. of Civ. Serv., 667 F.2d 1074, 1081 (3d Cir. 1981)], we cited with approval a Senate Conference Committee report recognizing that “certain types of violations are continuing in nature,” making it appropriate to “measure[ ] the running time of the required time period from the last occurrence of the discrimination and not from the first occurrence.”


Id. at 754 (citations omitted).

Just last month, the Supreme Court re-affirmed the vitality of the type of continuing-violation exception applicable to this question.  See Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Inc., ___ U.S. ____ (May 29, 2007).  […]

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