On April 27, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a cert petition in a Supreme Court Litigation Clinic case involving the country’s principal employment anti-discrimination law, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Our client, a long-time manager in the U.S. Postal Service, claims that the Service retaliated against him after he complained that he was passed over for a promotion because he is African-American. The retaliation got so severe – including false threats of criminal prosecution – that our client felt that he had no choice but to leave the Postal Service. He then claimed in federal court that this “constructive discharge” arising from the retaliation violated Title VII. But the court of appeals did not hear our client’s constructive-discharge claim on its merits. Instead, it threw out the case on statute-of-limitations grounds. The court said that the 45-day time limit for presenting his claim ran not from when he retired under severe pressure, but from the last retaliatory act that allegedly forced him to retire.
Clinic students Andrew Vaden (JD ’15), Alec Schierenbeck (JD ’15), Morgan Weiland (JD ’15), and Michael Skocpol (JD ’16) wrote a great cert petition, showing that there was a conflict in the lower courts on the timeliness issue and that the government’s preferred rule would be a trap for unwary employees and, contrary to the norm, would allow the time period to run even before the employee could sue for constructive discharge. Clinic students Sam Byker (JD ’16), Alex Twinem (JD ’16), and Danny Kane (JD ’16) will now turn to our full-blown merits brief.