Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Thursday, July 31, 2003

More Than 8 Years Before Filing Title VII Suit Means Laches, At Least This Time


Although it took 3 tries to get summary judgment on its laches defense, Caterpillar was able to have it upheld on appeal. Smith v. Caterpillar, Inc. (7th Cir. 7/31/03). The Court noted not only faded memories and lost witnesses, but the inevitable destruction of documents as well as the increase of exposure in back pay as the sort of prejudice that coupled with inexcusable delay was sufficient for laches. The delay was occasioned by plaintiff fully pursuing her claim of discrimination through the Illinois administrative process and then dropping it two days before a hearing to pursue her Title VII claim. Even then it took her over a year to get a right to sue letter from the EEOC. Her initial charge was filed on March 20, 1991, her law suit on August 17, 1999. From there, after the 3 summary judgment attempts, the appeal was argued on May 30, 2002 and decided more than a year later. All in all quite a judicial ride for some one who worked only as a probationary employee for 60 days. Any wonder why employers question the credibility, not to mention the cost, of the system?


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