We previously summarized the United States Supreme Court's Ledbetter v. Goodyear decision, in which the Court held that a plaintiff could not assert a timely Title VII claim based upon acts of intentional discrimination that occurred outside the limitations period, and which adversely affected the plaintiff's pay within the limitations period. In a recent California appellate court decision, Hammond v. County of Los Angeles, the court held that Ledbetter does not prohibit an employee from using untimely evidence of discrimination to show an unlawful motivation for intentional adverse actions which occur within the limitations period.
Hammond, a nursing instructor, alleged that her supervisor discriminated against her on the basis of her age and race by taking away her teaching assignments over a period of more than two years. While Hammond alleged that her supervisor made discriminatory remarks based upon her age and race, all of the remarks occurred more than a year prior to the filing of her administrative claim. The employer moved to dismiss Hammond's claims because of untimeliness.
Applying California law, the court determined that alleged adverse actions which occurred during the limitations period could be attributed to evidence of intentional discrimination which occurred outside the limitations period. The court distinguished the Ledbetter decision on the ground that Ledbetter involved the effects of intentional discrimination (with no allegations of intentional discrimination) which occurred within the limitations period, whereas Hammond alleged that intentional acts of discrimination (i.e., a reduction in assignments) occurred within the limitations period that were linked to prior discriminatory actions outside the limitations period.
The Hammond decision is troubling because it may allow plaintiffs to attempt to "revive" untimely acts of alleged discriminatory conduct, provided plaintiffs can establish a sufficient relationship between the untimely acts and a subsequent, timely alleged adverse action (e.g., same supervisor involved in both the untimely discriminatory conduct and the timely adverse action).