Claims for employment discrimination under Title VII must be “filed” within the EEOC within 300 days of the date on which the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred. This is the case for recovery based upon “discreet” acts of discrimination. There is an exception to this timing requirement however, known as the “continuing violation” doctrine, which permits a claim for a hostile work environment so long as one act contributing to the claim occurred within the statutory (in this case 300 days) period. The application of this doctrine was at issue in a recent New York District Court Case, where the plaintiff complained of a hostile work environment made up of numerous acts by employees of defendant over a period of more than 300 days.
In considering the issue of timeliness, the Court initially observed that for the continuing violation doctrine to apply, the acts outside of the 300 day window must be sufficiently related to a timely act, so as to constitute a single hostile work environment. While, “the line dividing discrete acts from acts that may underlie a hostile work environment is not always clear,” if an act is not actionable on its own it may generally be treated as part of a hostile work environment claim, and therefore subject to the continuing violation doctrine.
Examples of these “non-discrete” acts, which the court found were present in Benbow, were lack of office equipment, criticism and ostracism by supervisors and coworkers, failure to remedy a racist caricature or questioning of plaintiff's doctor. These acts, the court found, “in isolation” did not constitute an adverse employment action, however were sufficiently related to timely acts so as to form a single hostile work environment claim. In light of this the court granted in part and denied in part the defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint, permitting plaintiff's hostile work environment claims to proceed.
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Giovanna A. D'Orazio by Giovanna A. D'Orazio |
Giovanna practices employment, land use, commercial, civil and personal injury law at D'Orazio Peterson