Employment Discrimination – Statute of Limitations
In any type of lawsuit filed pursuant to M.G.L. c. 151B, Massachusetts’ anti-discrimination statute, the claim must be brought within 300 days of the date of the last discriminatory action by the employer.
Behija Kahriman brought suit against Wal-Mart on the basis of disability discrimination, alleging that Wal-Mart was aware that she had a disability that precluded her from being able to perform the lifting duties of her position. Kahriman alleges that Wal-Mart failed to engage in the interactive process, meaning that Wal-Mart was aware of her disability and failed to work with her to find a reasonable accommodation. Kahriman filed after the 300 day deadline and attempted to argue that the continuing violation doctrine applied to her case. The continuing violation doctrine, if applicable, would allow Kahriman to use events that occurred outside of the last 300 days to evidence disability discrimination.
Wal-Mart argues that it received a note from Kahriman’s physician that she was unable to work at all and therefore she voluntarily terminated her position.
Justice Woodlock of the Federal District Court – District of Massachusetts found that Wal-Mark could not be held liable for traditional disability discrimination because Kahriman had not offered any other evidence to conclude that her termination was grounded in discrimination. Therefore, Kahriman could not use the continuing violation doctrine in her favor. Justice Woodlock did find, however, that Kahriman did offer sufficient evidence that she was constructively terminated, meaning that she quit Wal-Mart for a compelling reason grounded in Wal-Mart’s discriminatory conduct. He wrote:
“Granting summary judgment for the defendants on a traditional termination claim, however, does not preclude Kahriman from recovery. Kahriman has alleged, at a minimum, that the defendants failed to provide her with a reasonable accommodation; this remains a possible basis to hold Wal-Mart liable under the ADA and chapter 151B, and [Joseph E.] Devuono [II] liable under chapter 151B. …
“… In this case, the evidence of record makes it possible to separate the constructive discharge claim from the traditional discriminatory termination claim. Accordingly, Kahriman may pursue the constructive discharge claim.”
Therefore, while the Court would not consider Wal-Mart’s conduct prior to the 300 days before Kahriman filed her lawsuit, which precluded her from a traditional disability discrimination cause of action, she was able to pursue her claim for constructive discharge against Wal-Mart.
It is important to be aware that unlawful conduct in the context of employment discrimination has a short window of time in Massachusetts to file suit. If you believe you have encountered unlawful discrimination in your workplace, it is important to consult with an attorney as soon as possible so you do not lose your rights. If you believe you have been discriminated against at work, please contact us at 978-276-0777.