US Supreme Court rules pay claims must be filed shortly after discriminatory decision; Ledbetter v Goodyear, 5/29/07

May 29, 2007: In Led­bet­ter v. Goodyear Tire & Rub­ber Com­pa­ny, 550 U.S. 618, 128 S. Ct. 2162 (2007) (Find­Law site opin­ion), the Unit­ed States Supreme Court, in a 5–4 deci­sion, issued an impor­tant deci­sion in a sex dis­crim­i­na­tion case under Title VII of the Civ­il Rights Act of 1964, which sub­stan­tial­ly lim­it­ed the time peri­od avail­able to assert a claim for pay dis­crim­i­na­tion. The Supreme Court affirmed the deci­sion of the Eleventh Cir­cuit in Led­bet­ter v. Goodyear Tire and Rub­ber Com­pa­ny, Inc., 421 F.3d 1169 (11th Cir. 2005).

Ledbetter’s Claims of Sex Dis­crim­i­na­tion and Low­er Pay, and the Tri­al Result

LillyLedbetter Led­bet­ter filed a charge of sex dis­crim­i­na­tion with the EEOC in 1998 and then lat­er in the year retired. She claimed that, years ear­li­er in her career at Goodyear, male super­vi­sors gave her bad per­for­mance reviews com­pared to what men received. She claimed that Goodyear award­ed rais­es based on those per­for­mance reviews, so that her pay rais­es were reduced as a result of the dis­crim­i­na­to­ry per­for­mance reviews.

Led­bet­ter went to tri­al and per­suad­ed the jury that the per­for­mance reviews, years before she filed her EEOC charge, were dis­crim­i­na­to­ry based on her sex, and the jury found her rights had been vio­lat­ed and award­ed her dam­ages based on her low­er pay­checks through­out her career. The tri­al judge entered a “judg­ment” in Ledbetter’s favor based on the jury’s ver­dict. So Led­bet­ter won at tri­al on her sex dis­crim­i­na­tion claim under Title VII. The Eleventh Cir­cuit Court of Appeals threw out the jury ver­dict and tri­al court judg­ment for Led­bet­ter, and entered a judg­ment in favor of Goodyear, based on her fail­ure to file her EEOC charge with­in 180 days of when the per­for­mance reviews had been con­duct­ed. The Unit­ed States Supreme Court affirmed, mean­ing that Goodyear won.

Con­tin­ue read­ing US Supreme Court rules pay claims must be filed short­ly after dis­crim­i­na­to­ry deci­sion; Led­bet­ter v Goodyear, 5/29/07

US Supreme Court Makes it Easier to Prove Retaliation Claims, in Burlington Northern v. White, 2006

June 22, 2006: In Burling­ton North­ern & Sante Fe Rail­way Co. v. White, 548 U.S. 53 (2006) (“Burling­ton North­ern v. White”), the US Supreme Court sub­stan­tial­ly broad­ened the abil­i­ty of employ­ees to file retal­i­a­tion claims under Title VII of the Civ­il Rights Act of 1964. It was a unan­i­mous (9–0) deci­sion.

US Supreme Court The Supreme Court broad­ened retal­i­a­tion claims in 2 ways:

First: Retal­ia­to­ry con­duct is not lim­it­ed to employer’s action at the work­place, and it is not lim­it­ed to action tak­en while the plain­tiff is still work­ing for the employ­er.

Sec­ond: Action by the employ­er may vio­late the anti-retal­i­a­tion pro­vi­sion even if it does not cause a tan­gi­ble loss, such as pay, for the plain­tiff. The con­duct may vio­late the law if it is “mate­ri­al­ly adverse” (as opposed to “triv­ial”) to the employ­ee, and might dis­suade a “rea­son­able work­er” from “mak­ing or sup­port­ing a charge of dis­crim­i­na­tion”. So, for exam­ple, trans­fers to dif­fer­ent posi­tions, even though they involve no loss in pay or ben­e­fits or pro­mo­tion­al oppor­tu­ni­ties, might con­sti­tute unlaw­ful action because, if the trans­fer is to what a rea­son­able work­er would view as a less attrac­tive job, that might dis­suade a rea­son­able work­er from com­plain­ing of dis­crim­i­na­tion.