National Railroad Passenger Corporation v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101, 10 (2002)

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Opinion of the Court

ment, therefore, that the charge be filed "after" the practice "occurred" tells us that a litigant has up to 180 or 300 days after the unlawful practice happened to file a charge with the EEOC.

The critical questions, then, are: What constitutes an "un-lawful employment practice" and when has that practice "occurred"? Our task is to answer these questions for both discrete discriminatory acts and hostile work environment claims. The answer varies with the practice.


We take the easier question first. A discrete retaliatory or discriminatory act "occurred" on the day that it "happened." A party, therefore, must file a charge within either 180 or 300 days of the date of the act or lose the ability to recover for it.

Morgan argues that the statute does not require the filing of a charge within 180 or 300 days of each discrete act, but that the language requires the filing of a charge within the specified number of days after an "unlawful employment practice." "Practice," Morgan contends, connotes an ongoing violation that can endure or recur over a period of time. See Brief for Respondent 25-26. In Morgan's view, the term "practice" therefore provides a statutory basis for the Ninth Circuit's continuing violation doctrine.6 This argu(1997) (quoting Pioneer Investment Services Co. v. Brunswick Associates Ltd. Partnership, 507 U. S. 380, 388 (1993) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted)). Webster's Third New International Dictionary 1561 (1993) defines "occur" as "to present itself: come to pass: take place: happen." See also Black's Law Dictionary 1080 (6th ed. 1990) (defining "[o]ccur" as "[t]o happen; . . . to take place; to arise").

6 Morgan also argues that the EEOC's discussion of continuing violations in its Compliance Manual, which provides that certain serial violations and systemic violations constitute continuing violations that allow relief for untimely events, as well as the positions the EEOC has taken in prior briefs, warrant deference under Chevron U. S. A. Inc. v. Natural

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