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AMTRAK v. Morgan

Supreme Court of the United States

January 9, 2002, Argued ; June 10, 2002, Decided

No. 00-1614

Opinion

 [**2067]  [***116]  [*104]    JUSTICE THOMAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

 Respondent Abner Morgan, Jr., sued petitioner National [****9]  Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 78 Stat. 253, as  [**2068]  amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (1994 ed. and Supp.V), alleging that he had been subjected to discrete discriminatory and retaliatory acts and had experienced a racially hostile work environment throughout his employment. Section 2000e-5(e)(1) (1994 ed.) requires that a Title  [*105]  VII  [***117]  plaintiff file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) either 180 or 300 days "after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred." We consider whether, and under what circumstances, a Title VII plaintiff may file suit on events that fall outside this statutory time period.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that a plaintiff may sue on claims that would ordinarily be time barred so long as they either are "sufficiently related" to incidents that fall within the statutory period or are part of a systematic policy or practice of discrimination that took place, at least in part, within the limitations period. We reverse in part and affirm in part. We hold that the statute precludes recovery for discrete acts of discrimination [****10]  or retaliation that occur outside the statutory time period. We also hold that consideration of the entire scope of a hostile work environment claim, including behavior alleged outside the statutory time period, is permissible for the purposes of assessing liability, so long as any act contributing to that hostile environment takes place within the statutory time period. The application of equitable doctrines, however, may either limit or toll the time period within which an employee must file a charge.

On February 27, 1995, Abner J. Morgan, Jr., a black male, filed a charge of discrimination and retaliation against Amtrak with the EEOC and cross-filed with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Morgan alleged that during the time period that he worked for Amtrak he was "consistently harassed and disciplined more harshly than other employees on account of his race." 1 App. to Pet.  [*106]  for Cert. 25a. The EEOC issued a "Notice of Right to Sue" on July 3, 1996, and Morgan filed this lawsuit on October 2, 1996. While some of the allegedly discriminatory acts about which Morgan complained occurred within 300 days of the time that he filed his charge with the EEOC, many [****11]  took place prior to that time period. Amtrak filed a motion, arguing, among other things, that it was entitled to summary judgment on all incidents that occurred more than 300 days before the filing of Morgan's EEOC charge. The District Court granted summary judgment in part to Amtrak, holding that the company could not be liable for conduct occurring before May 3, 1994, because that conduct fell outside of the 300-day filing period. The court employed a test established by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Galloway v. General Motors Service Parts Operations, 78 F.3d 1164 (1996): A "plaintiff may not base [the] suit on conduct that occurred outside the statute of limitations unless it would have been unreasonable to expect the plaintiff to sue before the statute ran on that conduct, as in a case in which the conduct could constitute, or be recognized, as actionable harassment only in the light of events that occurred later, within the period of the statute of limitations." Id., at  [***118]  1167. The District Court held that "because Morgan believed that he was being discriminated against at the time that all of these acts occurred,  [****12]  it would not be unreasonable to expect that Morgan should have filed an EEOC charge on  [**2069]  these acts before the limitations period on these claims ran." App. to Pet. for Cert. 40a. 2 

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536 U.S. 101 *; 122 S. Ct. 2061 **; 153 L. Ed. 2d 106 ***; 2002 U.S. LEXIS 4214 ****; 70 U.S.L.W. 4524; 88 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 1601; 82 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P41,042; 15 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 347

NATIONAL RAILROAD PASSENGER CORPORATION, PETITIONER v. ABNER MORGAN, JR.

Prior History:  [****1]  ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT.

 Morgan v. AMTRAK, 232 F.3d 1008, 2000 U.S. App. LEXIS 27874 (9th Cir. Cal. 2000)

Disposition: Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

CORE TERMS

hostile environment, filing of charges, unlawful employment practice, time period, discriminatory act, discrete, limitations period, occurs, discrete act, damages, hostile work environment, discriminatory, hostile work environment claim, termination, purposes, take place, occurrence, statutory time period, continuing violation, statute of limitations, time barred, charge-filing, courts, notice, filing period, timely filing, backpay, equitable doctrine, circumstances, retaliatory

Labor & Employment Law, Discrimination, Title VII Discrimination, General Overview, Racial Discrimination, Statute of Limitations, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Statute of Limitations, Time Limitations, Remedies, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Begins to Run, Continuing Violations, Transportation Law, Air & Space Transportation, Personnel, Flight Attendants, Civil Rights Law, Protection of Rights, Procedural Matters, Civil Actions, Time Limitations, Estoppel, Tolling & Waiver, Waivers, Waiver, Actionable Discrimination, Commercial Law (UCC), Sales (Article 2), Form, Formation & Readjustment, Harassment, Racial Harassment, Hostile Work Environment, Sexual Harassment, Civil Procedure, Preliminary Considerations, Equity