Law School Case Brief
United Air Lines v. Evans - 431 U.S. 553, 97 S. Ct. 1885 (1977)
A discriminatory act which is not made the basis for a timely charge is the legal equivalent of a discriminatory act which occurred before the statute was passed. It may constitute relevant background evidence in a proceeding in which the status of a current practice is at issue, but separately considered, it is merely an unfortunate event in history which has no present legal consequences.
Respondent Carolyn Evans, an employee of United Airlines, was forced to resign from her position upon getting married. Subsequently, the airline's no-marriage policy was found to be violative of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Act) in an action to which Evans was not a party. In 1972, she was rehired by the airline as a new employee with no seniority credit for her prior service. She later filed suit seeking seniority to the date of her initial employment, and alleged that the airline was guilty of a present, continuing violation of Title VII because its seniority system treated her less favorably than males hired between 1968 and 1972 and perpetuated the consequences of the past discrimination. The District Court dismissed the complaint on the ground that it was time-barred due to the plaintiff's failure to file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission within 90 days of her separation in 1968, as required under 706(d) of the Act. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed. United Airlines challenged the decision of the appellate court and argued that Evan’s action was time-barred and more importantly, Evans was treated the same as any new employee.
Did the airline commit a present continuing violation of Title VII by refusing to credit Evans with seniority for any period prior to the date of her rehiring?
The Court held that the airline had not committed a present continuing violation of Title VII by refusing to credit the plaintiff with seniority for any period prior to the date of her rehiring. Thus, Evans could not recover even though the seniority system perpetuated the past discrimination. The Court ruled that the seniority system treated males and females equally and that a challenge to a neutral system could not be predicated on the mere fact that a past event, which had no present legal significance, had affected the calculation of seniority credit, even if the past event might at one time have justified a valid claim against the employer.
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