National Railroad Passenger Corporation v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101 (2002)

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OCTOBER TERM, 2001

Syllabus

NATIONAL RAILROAD PASSENGER CORPORATION v. MORGAN

certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit

No. 00-1614. Argued January 9, 2002—Decided June 10, 2002

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a plaintiff "shall" file an employment discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) either 180 or 300 days after an "alleged unlawful employment practice occurred." 42 U. S. C. 2000e-5(e)(1). Respondent Morgan, a black male, filed a charge of discrimination and retaliation with the EEOC against petitioner National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak), and cross-filed with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. He alleged that he had been subjected to discrete discriminatory and retaliatory acts and had experienced a racially hostile work environment throughout his employment. The EEOC issued a "Notice of Right to Sue," and Morgan filed this lawsuit. While some of the allegedly discriminatory acts occurred within 300 days of the time that Morgan filed his EEOC charge, many took place prior to that time period. The District Court granted Amtrak summary judgment in part, holding that the company could not be liable for conduct occurring outside of the 300-day filing period. The Ninth Circuit reversed, holding 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 period.

Held: A Title VII plaintiff raising claims of discrete discriminatory or retaliatory acts must file his charge within the appropriate 180- or 300-day period, but a charge alleging a hostile work environment will not be time barred if all acts constituting the claim are part of the same unlawful practice and at least one act falls within the filing period; in neither instance is a court precluded from applying equitable doctrines that may toll or limit the time period. Pp. 108-122.

(a) Strict adherence to Title VII's timely filing requirements is the best guarantee of evenhanded administration of the law. Mohasco Corp. v. Silver, 447 U. S. 807, 826. In a State having an entity authorized to grant or seek relief with respect to the alleged unlawful practice, an employee who initially files a grievance with that agency must file the charge with the EEOC within 300 days of the employment practice;

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