The Seventh Circuit — construing the detested Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 127 S. Ct. 2162 (2007) — draws a useful distinction between discrete acts, such as the denial of a raise, and an ongoing pattern of withholding business opportunities that could lead to a raise. The panel holds that the latter violation here should have survived a motion to dismiss.
Chaudhry v. Nucor Steel, No. 07-3729 (7th Cir. Oct. 15, 2008): At the pleadings stage, the district court dismissed on limitations grounds two Title VII claims that Mr. Chaudhry was (1) denied a raise in 2003, and (2) denied opportunities for training and meeting customers that could have lead to future raises. The former claim got caught in the switches: Ledbetter came down during the pendency of the case and overruled the prior law of the circuit (which held that each paycheck created a new claim). The Seventh Circuit agreed that the 2003 claim had to go.
As for the denial of opportunities, the panel differed with the district court. Here’s a description of what Mr Chaudhry alleged:
“Nucor prevented Chaudhry from visiting customers, which precluded him from qualifying for an annual raise in pay grade. [Quality Control Inspector, or QCI]’s who make at least four customer visits per year in addition to completing a course at the American Society of Materials in Cleveland, Ohio, become eligible for an increase in pay grade. QCI’s are notified of opportunities to visit customers by Nucor metallurgists or supervisors. Although Chaudhry repeatedly asked to be informed of opportunities to visit customers so he could qualify for the increase in pay grade, Nucor failed to tell him about the opportunities.”
And the Seventh Circuit held that this claim cleared the limitations hurdle:
“Chaudhry’s complaint and EEOC charge allege that he has been denied a raise every year for failing to meet the prerequisite for the raise due to Nucor’s preventative efforts, which were motivated by improper discrimination. This claim is not time-barred because every decision by Nucor not to give him a raise based on this criterion gives rise to a ‘fresh violation.’ Ledbetter, 127 S. Ct. at 2169 (reiterating that its holding did not apply to situations in which an employer ‘engages in a series of acts each of which is intentionally discriminatory, [where] a fresh violation takes place when each act is committed’). Chaudhry indicates in one of his letters to the EEOC that in June 2006, Nucor allowed everyone an extra raise in pay grade for taking a technical course and visiting customers, which means this claim faces no statute of limitations issues.”
Finally, the court remanded the matter with instructions to reconsider the denial of leave to amend to add a § 1981 claim, with a longer limitations period.