Discriminatory Events Must Occur Within Statute of Limitations Time Prior to Filing Complaint
Description Appeals court affirmed the dismissal of a suit for race and sex discrimination brought by a former employee. The last discriminatory event claimed in the complaint occurred two years before the complaint was filed, which was outside the one-year statute of limitations in Minnesota.
Topic Employment Discrimination
Key Words Sex Discrimination; Race Discrimination; Statute of Limitations
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Smith worked for Ashland for four years until May 2, 1996, when she was fired. She made several complaints while working there about racial and sexual harassment. On April 21, 1997 she filed a sex and race discrimination charge with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (DHR). On March 2, 1998, the DHR issued a finding of no probable cause. Smith then filed suit in federal district court and included statements from some former co-workers about the nature of the sex and race discrimination she had faced at Ashland. The district court dismissed her suit as barred by a one-year statute of limitations. Smith appealed.
Decision Affirmed. Under Minnesota law, employment discrimination claims referring to events that occurred more than one year before Smith filed her charge with the DHR were time barred by the one-year statute of limitations period. Under the law, each discriminatory act triggers anew the time period for reporting the entire pattern of discrimination, as long as at least one incident of discrimination occurred within the limitations period. Here, the last incident recounted by Smith occurred two years before she filed her complaint. Smith could circumvent the one-year rule if there was evidence of systematic discrimination at the company on the basis of sex or race, but there were no complaints by similarly affected employees to indicate a pattern of discrimination.
Citation Smith v. Ashland, Inc., 250 F.3d 1167 (8th Cir., 2001)

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