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Mayer Brown's Supreme Court and Appellate Practice Group distributes a Docket Report whenever the Supreme Court grants certiorari in a case of interest to the business community. We also email the Docket Report to our subscribed members and if you don't already subscribe to the Docket Report and would like to, please click here.

October Term 2008 - September 30, 2009

Today the Supreme Court granted certiorari in one case of interest to the business community:

Title VII - Time Limit to File EEOC Charge

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, a plaintiff seeking to bring suit for employment discrimination must have first filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. If, before filing the EEOC charge, the plaintiff sought relief from a state or local agency with authority over such matters, the plaintiff must have filed the EEOC charge “within 300 days after the unlawful employment practice occurred.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1). Today, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Lewis v. City of Chicago, No. 08-974, to decide whether, when an employer adopts a discriminatory employment practice in violation of Title VII’s disparate impact provisions, that 300-day period begins to run at the announcement of the practice, or whether instead the time period starts anew at each use of that practice.

Lewis is of considerable interest to companies covered by Title VII because, depending on the case’s resolution, well-established and facially neutral employment practices might expose such companies to liability years after those practices were adopted.

In the case below, African-American applicants who had been denied consideration for entry-level firefighter positions on the basis of a written test filed suit against the City of Chicago, alleging that the City’s hiring practice had a disparate impact on African-American applicants and bore no demonstrable relationship to firefighter performance. The City admitted that its use of the test had a disparate impact on African Americans, but argued that the suit was untimely because the plaintiffs had failed to file an EEOC charge within 300 days of the City’s announcement of the test results upon which its future hiring decisions would be based. The district court disagreed, finding that a new claim accrued each time the City made a hiring decision based on those results, and that the plaintiffs’ filing of an EEOC charge within 300 days of the City’s most recent round of hiring was therefore timely.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed. In its view, the applicants’ claims had accrued when they were notified of the test results, which was more than a year before the first EEOC charge was filed. According to the Seventh Circuit, the City’s subsequent hiring decisions were nothing more than the inevitable effects of the previously announced test results and thus did not re-start the clock for purposes of the 300-day time limit. Consequently, the Seventh Circuit held, the applicants’ failure to file an EEOC charge within 300 days of the test results being announced required dismissal of their suit.

Absent extensions, amicus briefs in support of the petitioners will be due on November 23, 2009, and amicus briefs in support of the respondent will be due on December 23, 2009. Any questions about this case should be directed to Diana Hoover (+1 713 238 2628) in our Houston office or Marcia Goodman (+1 312 701 7953) in our Chicago office.

The Court also granted certiorari today in Carr v. United States, No. 08-1301, in which Mayer Brown LLP represents the petitioner on a pro bono basis. Carr, a criminal case, presents statutory and constitutional questions regarding retroactive application of the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act.

Mayer Brown's Supreme Court & Appellate practice distributes a Docket Report whenever the Supreme Court grants certiorari in a case of interest to the business community and distributes a Docket Report-Decision Alert whenever the Court decides such a case. We hope you find the Docket Reports and Decision Alerts useful, and welcome feedback on them (which should be addressed to Andrew Tauber, their general editor, at atauber@mayerbrown.com or +1 202 263 3324).
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Mayer Brown Supreme Court Docket Reports provide information and comments on legal issues and developments of interest to our clients and friends. They are not a comprehensive treatment of the subject matter covered and are not intended to provide legal advice. Readers should seek specific legal advice before taking any action with respect to the matters discussed.

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