The United States Supreme Court ruled Monday, May 23, 2016, that the filing period for a constructive discharge claim begins to run when an employee resigns as a result of discriminatory behavior.
In a 7-1 vote penned by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the high court vacated a September 2014 Tenth Circuit ruling that the clock for a claim of constructive discharge — when an employer creates an environment so adversarial that an employee feels forced to resign — starts running at the time of the employer's last alleged act of discrimination that forces an employee to quit. Instead the court held that the filing period begins when an employee resigns after having to endure any such discrimination.
In its ruling, the high court concluded in part that an employee’s resignation is part of the “complete and present cause of action” for a constructive discharge claim that is necessary before a limitations period can begin to run. The majority also clarified that the clock on the limitations period begins at the time an employee gives notice of resignation, and not their actual last work day.
The practical effect of the Court's decision is it will make it more difficult for an employer to argue that a constructive discharge claim is untimely as the decision will expand the statute of limitations period in Title VII cases alleging constructive discharge.