Fedweek

A U.S. Supreme Court decision has clarified the time limits for federal employees to sue their agencies under the Civil Rights Act for discrimination or retaliation. The court noted that under the law, before filing such a suit employees must “initiate contact” with an EEO counse¬lor at their agency “within 45 days of the date of the matter alleged to be discriminatory.” In firings, the period begins as of the date of discharge, the court noted, but lower courts were divided regarding a resignation in the face of what the employee believes to be an intolerable situation—a so-called constructive discharge. In this case, involving a postal employee, an appeals court had held that the period began as of the date the employee agreed to retire instead of accept an unwanted transfer; the retirement was effective three months later. It said he failed to contact the EEO office within 45 days of that date and thus dismissed the case. However, the high court agreed with several courts that had ruled in other cases that the period in such circumstances begins when the employee actually separates.