In another ruling last month, the Supreme Court said employees in some cases can file discrimination charges even if allegations fall outside the statute of limitations.
Under Title VII, employees must file charges with the EEOC within 180 or 300 days after the alleged violation occurred, depending on certain circumstances. This ruling confirmed that employees must stick to those time limits when alleging single, or "discrete," acts of discrimination, such as retaliation, or hiring or firing bias.
But the high court said hostile work environment claims are a different story. Because these charges often involve on-going, repeated conduct over a longer period of time, a worker's hostile environment claim can legitimately rope in actions that occurred long before that 180- or 300-day window. (National Railroad Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, No. 00-1614)
Advice: This ruling is a victory for employees because it gives them the opportunity to file hostile worker environment claims citing acts that occurred before the 180- or 300-day period.
Because workers now can go deeper into the past to collect evidence for their hostile environment claims, you have to go deeper to build your defense. That means you should retain your personnel records longer.
Keep in mind that many state statutes of limitations go back further than the EEOC's charge-filing period. Check on your state statute and keep records for at least that long after workers leave your company.
Rule of thumb: When in doubt, don't throw it out.
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