A federal trial court has reiterated that the important date for filing deadlines is not when an employee learns he was discriminated against, but when he was fired. Employees have to file their EEOC complaint within 300 days of discharge or they lose the right to sue.
Recent case: Tyrone, who is black, worked as a JetBlue pilot. While off-duty at an airport, a woman approached him and they exchanged phone numbers. They spoke by phone several times until someone who identified himself as the woman’s boyfriend intercepted a call and told Tyrone to stop calling or he would get him fired. Tyrone never called again.
The boyfriend apparently complained to JetBlue, which fired Tyrone. More than 300 days later, he filed an EEOC complaint alleging the reason he was terminated was that he is black and the woman white. He claimed that only recently had he learned that while discussing appropriate punishment, managers and supervisors used racial slurs and may have treated other, nonblack pilots differently.
The court tossed out the case, explaining that the initial discharge date triggered the 300-day deadline, even if Tyrone didn’t suspect race played a role until later. (Berry v. JetBlue, No. 11-CV-1888, ED NY, 2012)
Final note: JetBlue eventually rehired Tyrone, but he missed out on pension benefits he thought he deserved, and which had been paid to others who had been reinstated following discharge. He lost that claim, too.