Unanimously Against Discrimination
As the Supreme Court nears the end of its 2009 term, it must still issue over 30 opinions on cases that were heard during the year (the Court has already issued 53 opinions this term). Decisions on the most controversial issues are often left until the end of the term (because they take longer to write), so we are still waiting for opinions on such “hot topics” as gun control, religious liberty, and the rights of detainees.
In a civil rights victory this week, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Lewis v. Chicago, a case that considered the statute of limitations to sue an employer for using a hiring test with a disparate impact. The Court unanimously agreed that the statute of limitations expires not 300 days from the date the policy is adopted but 300 days from when it is applied to an individual employee/plaintiff. This welcome clarification removes a barrier that has obstructed access to justice, ensuring that those who are victims of a policy or test that has a disparate impact can have their day in Court.
As was mentioned in a previous post on the RAC blog, the Union for Reform Judaism signed onto an amicus brief in this case, coordinated by the National Partnership for Women and Families and the National Women’s Law Center, arguing that an individual must be allowed to challenge an employment selection or promotion policy that has a disparate impact whenever the policy is applied to that individual. This rule, the brief argues, is most appropriate because it is consistent with both the text and purpose of Title VII’s disparate impact provision. The Court unanimously agreed with this analysis and strengthened protections against workplace discrimination.