Supreme Court gives federal workers more time to file job bias claims

By Allen Cone  |  May 23, 2016 at 2:46 PM
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WASHINGTON, May 23 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court has given federal workers more time to file employment discrimination lawsuits after quitting their jobs.

The shorthanded court ruled 7-1 Monday that workers have 45 days from when they resign to file so-called "constructive discharge" claims.

The Justice Department wanted the clock to start when the alleged abuse occurs.

Marvin Green, a former Colorado postal worker, filed a lawsuit in September 2010 that the U.S. Postal Service retaliated after he complained that he was passed over for a promotion because he is black.

He said his application to fill a vacant position of postmaster in Boulder, Colo., was ignored, and the job given to a white employee who had not gone through the management training program like he had.

After he filed a formal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint in August 2008, he said his supervisors began bullying and harassing him. The postal service then falsely accusing him of purposefully delaying mail, a felony, he said.

After two years, he was told to retire or he would be demoted. He says he signed a settlement agreement with the postal service, and then filed another EEOC complaint, alleging he was forced to retire.

U.S. District Judge Lewis Babcock dismissed a number of Green's claims, saying he had not exhausted his administrative appeals. Green appealed the ruling, and the 10th Circuit agreed with the judge.

In an opinion written for the court majority, Justice Sonya Sotomayor noted the lawsuit was filed within 45 days -- when he actually resigned from his post rather than when the harassment occurred.

She wrote, "One factual issue remains: when exactly Green gave the Postal Service notice of his resignation."

Justice Clarence Thomas dissented, writing the statute refers to conduct by the employer, not a worker's decision to quit a job. Thomas served as chairman of the EEOC from 1982-90, before he became a justice.

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