August 23, 2019

Tenth Circuit: Employment Age Discrimination Claims Filed Beyond Limitations Period; Ledbetter Act Not Applicable

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Almond, III v. Unified School Dist. #501 on Tuesday, November 29, 2011.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision. Petitioners were employed by Respondent school district. Facing budget restraints, their positions were eliminated, but both accepted other positions with decreased pay taking effect in two years. Upon the two year mark when their pay decreased as agreed upon, Petitioners filed suit alleging unlawful age discrimination. However, the district court determined that Petitioners had waited too long to seek administrative review — and that the delay had the effect of barring their lawsuits altogether.

While Petitioners’ appeal of the district court’s summary judgment decision was pending, Congress passed the Ledbetter Act – a law specifically aimed at effecting changes to limitations law in the employment discrimination field. “To allow the district court the opportunity to consider whether the Act rescued [Petitioners]’ claims, rendering their otherwise untimely claims timely, the parties agreed to dismiss the appeal. In the end, though, the district court concluded that the Act offered the [Petitioners] no help and now the case is back on appeal.

The Court considered the timeliness of the Petitioners’ claims in light of both preexisting law and the Ledbetter Act. The Court found that “whether the adverse consequences flowing from the challenged employment action hit the employee straight away or only much later, the [300-day] ‘limitations period normally commences when the employer’s decision is made’ and ‘communicated’ to the employee;” Petitioners both filed their claims outside that window. Additionally, “by its express terms, the [Ledbetter] Act applies only to claims alleging ‘discrimination in compensation’ — or, put another way, claims of unequal pay for equal work.” The Petitioners did not bring such claims and so the Ledbetter Act does not apply to their situation.

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