National Railroad Passenger Corporation v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101, 3 (2002)

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Cite as: 536 U. S. 101 (2002)

Syllabus

All prior discrete discriminatory acts are untimely filed and no longer actionable. Pp. 110-115.

(c) Hostile work environment claims are different in kind from discrete acts. Because their very nature involves repeated conduct, the "unlawful employment practice," 2000e-5(e)(1), cannot be said to occur on any particular day. It occurs over a series of days or perhaps years and, in direct contrast to discrete acts, a single act of harassment may not be actionable on its own. See Harris v. Forklift Systems, Inc., 510 U. S. 17, 21. Determining whether an actionable hostile environment claim exists requires an examination of all the circumstances, including the frequency of the discriminatory conduct; its severity; whether it is physically threatening or humiliating, or a mere offensive utterance; and whether it unreasonably interferes with an employee's work performance. Id., at 23. The question whether a court may, for purposes of determining liability, review all such conduct, including those acts that occur outside the filing period, turns on the statutory requirement that a charge be filed within a certain number of days "after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred." Because such a claim is composed of a series of separate acts that collectively constitute one "unlawful employment practice," it does not matter that some of the component acts fall outside the statutory time period. Provided that an act contributing to the claim occurs within the filing period, the entire time period of the hostile environment may be considered for the purposes of determining liability. That act need not be the last act. Subsequent events may still be part of the one claim, and a charge may be filed at a later date and still encompass the whole. Therefore, a court's task is to determine whether the acts about which an employee complains are part of the same actionable hostile work environment practice, and if so, whether any act falls within the statutory time period. To support his hostile environment claim, Morgan presented evidence that managers made racial jokes, performed racially derogatory acts, and used various racial epithets. Although many of these acts occurred outside the 300-day filing period, it cannot be said that they are not part of the same actionable hostile environment claim. Pp. 115-121.

(d) The Court's holding does not leave employers defenseless when a plaintiff unreasonably delays filing a charge. The filing period is subject to waiver, estoppel, and equitable tolling when equity so requires, Zipes, supra, at 398, and an employer may raise a laches defense if the plaintiff unreasonably delays in filing and as a result harms the defendant, see, e. g., Albemarle Paper Co. v. Moody, 422 U. S. 405, 424-425. Pp. 121-122.

232 F. 3d 1008, affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

103

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