On May 23, 2016, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the filing period for constructive discharge claims, which can be filed pursuant to many different employment laws, begins to run upon an employee’s resignation as opposed to the employer’s act that triggered the resignation. In Green v. Brennan, the plaintiff was employed as a postmaster in Colorado. When he was denied a promotion that was given to another employee with less seniority and (allegedly) inferior qualifications, he filed a complaint alleging that racial discrimination motivated the employer’s decision. After filing the complaint, the plaintiff believed he was subjected to increased criticism and accusations in the workplace.
In an attempt to resolve the mounting workplace issues, the plaintiff was given six months of paid leave. In exchange, however, the plaintiff was presented with two choices upon expiration of his leave; accept a demotion to an office hundreds of miles away to a position that paid considerably less or resign from employment. The plaintiff elected a third option. He resigned and filed a constructive discharge complaint, but not until five months after his resignation date.
The employer argued that the suit was untimely, claiming that the last discriminatory act (the deal wherein the plaintiff was given leave in exchange for his resignation) triggered the filing period, which had lapsed before the complaint was filed. The plaintiff argued that his resignation triggered the filing period thereby rendering his complaint timely.
In siding with the plaintiff, the Supreme Court held that the filing period on a constructive discharge claim does not begin to run until the date of the employee’s resignation. Specifically, the court noted that resignation is a necessary element in a constructive discharge case, and therefore, the claim cannot be brought until after an employee resigns. The Court also clarified that the filing period begins to run on the date that the employee tenders their resignation as opposed to the last date of employment.
For Pennsylvania employers, the impact of this case is straightforward. An employee now has 300 days after giving notice of their resignation to bring a discrimination-based constructive discharge claim.