• U.S. Supreme Court Clarifies Limitation Period for Claims Relying on Constructive Discharge
  • March 22, 2017 | Authors: Zachary A. Ahonen; Michael W. Padgett; Scott James Preston; Melissa K. Taft; Craig W. Wiley
  • Law Firm: Jackson Lewis P.C. - Indianapolis Office
  • U.S. Supreme Court Clarifies Limitation Period for Claims Relying on Constructive Discharge

    Under a constructive discharge theory, an employee’s limitation period to file a discrimination claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission begins upon the constructive discharge, not before, the United States Supreme Court has ruled, giving clarity to timing considerations of constructive discharge claims. Green v. Brennan, 136 S. Ct. 1769 (2016).

    A critical element of most discrimination claims is the presence of an “adverse employment action” taken against an employee. Often, this adverse employment action is the employee’s involuntary termination. However, an employee can sidestep this requirement if he can demonstrate that:
    1. his employer discriminated against him to the point where a reasonable person in his situation would have felt compelled to resign, and
    2. he actually resigned his employment.
    The Court found that an employee’s limitation period to file a discrimination claim could not begin when the alleged discriminatory acts occurred because the employee could not bring his cause of action until he actually had resigned. Additionally, the Court could not find any indication in the pertinent federal regulation of a contrary intent. Finally, the Court held that, as a matter of practicality, the constructive discharge date is the “trigger date” that made the most sense.

    Equally as important, the Court determined that the date of an employee’s resignation under the constructive-discharge theory is the date an employee provides notice (if any) to the employer of an intent to resign, rather than the actual date of resignation. For example, if an employee provides an employer with the customary two weeks’ notice, the employee’s resignation date and the beginning of his limitation period is the date he provides that two weeks’ notice, not his last day working with the employer.

    Timing should not be overlooked when considering effective defenses against employment-related claims.