Timing May Not Be Everything, But It Does Mattter
by Michael Fox
Plaintiffs found that out the hard way last week as their claims were dashed because of their failure to file timely charges. In Haynes v. Level 3 Communications, LLC (10th Cir. 8/8/06) [pdf] a charge of discrimination was filed within 300 days of Haynes' termination, but unfortunately for her there was no basis for finding her termination discriminatory, since employees placed on PIP's, like plaintiff, were selected for the RIF. (The Court also disagreed with the trial court's reading of its precedent about the impact of PIP's, saying it was joining other circuit courts to consider the issue and holding that merely placing an employee on a PIP was not an adverse employment action.) All other discriminatory actions were beyond the 300 days limit -- case dismissed.
A similar fate, although somewhat more complicated, occurred in MacDonald v. Grace Church Seattle (9th Cir. 8/11/06) [pdf]. McDonald actually filed her charge of discrimination within 300 days, but was tripped up because it was not filed within 180 days. Although normally, she could have relied on the 300 day time period because Washington is a normally a deferral state, it didn't work here because Washington's state statute does not cover non-profit religious organizations. If the state law doesn't cover the subject or the employer, it does not extend the time for filing.
Never underestimate the importance of timing.