Court, Finding “Continuing Violation Doctrine” Inapplicable, Dismisses Title VII Discrimination Claims as Time Barred

In Le v. New York State, No. 1:16-CV-1517, 2017 WL 3084414 (N.D.N.Y. July 18, 2017), the court discussed and applied the “continuing violation” doctrine/exception under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (I addressed other aspects of this case, including the court’s dismissal of plaintiff’s “perceived as Muslim” discrimination claim, here.)

The court summarized the law:

Under th[e] [continuing violation] exception, if a plaintiff files a timely EEOC charge as to any incident of discrimination in furtherance of an ongoing policy of discrimination, all claims of acts of discrimination under that policy will be timely even if they would be untimely standing alone. … Generally speaking, [t]he continuing violation exception applies to cases involving specific discriminatory policies or mechanisms such as discriminatory seniority lists, or discriminatory employment tests. … However, this doctrine is inapplicable to “discrete acts” of discrimination, even if they are related to acts alleged in timely filed charges. … Such discrete acts include termination, disparate disciplining, and negative performance evaluations. [Paragraphing modified]

Applying the law, the court held that plaintiff’s claims were time barred, in that they were “discrete acts” not saved by the continuing violations doctrine. From the decision:

Although Le contends that the events in her complaint, considered in the aggregate, have caused her to “los[e] faith” in her co-workers and to not be as “happy as [she] used to be coming into work,” [] the otherwise-untimely incidents alleged in her complaint are clearly a series of discrete acts, such as a referral for a psychological evaluation, a reprimand by a supervisor, and an unexplored allegation that a co-worker was acting in an inappropriate manner. Because these incidents do not plausibly form part of a “continuing violation” for purposes of Title VII, they are time-barred.

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