When the U.S. Supreme Court decided the Lilly Ledbetter case in 2007, employers were thrilled. The court ruled that employees have to move fast after being denied a promotion or experiencing some other allegedly discriminatory act. Otherwise, they lose the right to sue for sex discrimination.
Ledbetter made clear that in states that have their own anti-discrimination agencies (such as New York) employees have just 300 days to file complaints with the EEOC or the state agency. (Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber, No. 05-1074, U.S. Supreme Court, 2007)
But now, that tight deadline is beginning to slip as federal trial courts look for ways to give employees their day in court.
As the following case shows, employees can go back far longer than 300 days in New York to bolster their claims—by introducing evidence they claim shows that their employer was a discriminator.
Recent case: April Klein worked for New York University’s Stern School of Business, first as a visiting professor and then as a full-time tenure-track faculty member. She has been an associate professor of accounting since receiving tenure in 1992.
Klein’s relationship with the university had been rocky. She claims she was denied a promotion to full professor in 1999, rejected for three faculty fellowships in 1999, 2002 and 2005, that a senior faculty member propositioned her in 1992 and that she received lower raises than her male counterparts in 2005. All this, she claimed, was due to sex discrimination.
The only allegation that fell within the 300-day limit was the lower raise she alleged she got in 2005. The trial court agreed with the university that Klein couldn’t collect for any prior sex discrimination. But it still said Klein could present testimony about the earlier allegations to try to show the university’s predisposition to sex discrimination. (Klein v. New York University, No. 07-CIV-160, SD NY, 2008)
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