SW Legal studies in Business

300 Day Filing Limit Rule Strict When One Incident Major Basis of Title VII Complaint

Appeals court held that firefighter applicants that waited over 400 days to sue, contending that the application test was biased against African-American applicants, lost the right to bring a Title VII complaint because the filing was past the 300 day time limit of when the injury occurred.

Topic Employment Discrimination
Key Words

Filing Period; Continuing Violation Doctrine

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

The City of Chicago gave written tests to 26,000 applicants for jobs as firefighters and classified them as well qualified, qualified or not qualified. The city hired 600 of the 1,782 well-qualified applicants. A group of African-American applicants sued, contending the test was biased and had a disparate impact (intentional discrimination) on black applicants as many were ranked qualified instead of well-qualified and so were not competitive to be hired. After long proceedings, the district court held for plaintiffs and decreed injunctive relief. The City appealed.


Reversed. The suit was filed 420 days after the notice of the test results were given; the test takers all received results within a couple days. Title VII requires suit to be filed within 300 days of the event that is the basis of a suit. Plaintiffs contended the 300 days did not begin to run until it was clear that applicants rated qualified were not going to be hired because there were plenty of well-qualified applicants. That is not so. The 300-day period for filing an EEOC charge commenced on the date the test results were announced, not when final hiring decisions were made. Under the first injury rule, the statute of limitations begins to run upon injury, it is not restarted by subsequent injuries. The doctrine of continuing violation allows a plaintiff to delay suing until a series of acts by a prospective defendant blossoms into a wrongful injury on which a suit can be based. That does not apply here because the test was the basis of the alleged injury.

Citation Lewis v. City of Chicago, 528 F.3d 488 (7th Cir., 2008)

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