The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has revised a subsection of the Compliance Manual section on Threshold Issues concerning time limitations on charge filing. The Threshold Issues section was originally issued on May 12, 2000. This revision replaces § 2-IV.C, "When Did the Alleged Violation Take Place?" The new section § 2-IV.C is captioned: "When Can a Discriminatory Act Be Challenged?"
Q: What is the purpose of the revision?
A: The revision conforms the Manual's discussion of the continuing violation doctrine to the Supreme Court's holding in National Railroad Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101 (2002). In Morgan, the Court held that the timeliness of a charge depends on whether it involves a discrete act or a hostile work environment.
Q: How do the time frames apply to discrete acts?
A: A discrete act, such as failure to hire or denial of promotion, is only independently actionable if it occurred with the filing period. A discrete act that occurred before the filing period is untimely even if it is related to other actions that are timely. Untimely discrete acts, however, may be used as background evidence in support of timely actions.
Q: How do the time frames apply to hostile work environment claims?
A: All of the incidents that make up the same hostile work environment claim are actionable as long as at least one incident occurred within the filing period. This includes any incidents that an employee suspected were discriminatory before the filing period.
Q: Can a discrete act that occurred outside the filing period be part of a hostile work environment claim?
A: Yes, a discrete act that is part of a pattern of harassment may be considered in determining whether the alleged harassment was sufficiently severe or pervasive to be actionable, and if so, the appropriate relief for the hostile work environment. Because the untimely discrete act is not separately actionable, relief for the discrete act itself, such as back pay or reinstatement, is not available.
Q: How do the filing periods apply to pattern-or-practice claims?
A: Morgan had no effect on the time frames for challenging pattern-or-practice claims. If a pattern or practice of discrimination continues into the filing period, then all of the component acts are timely.