Third Circuit Holds Ledbetter Fair Pay Act Does Not Save Untimely Failure-to-Promote Claims

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A recent decision by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals allows employers to breathe a sigh of relief. In Noel v. Boeing Co., the court concluded that an otherwise untimely discrimination claim, alleging that the employer discriminated against an employee by failing to promote the employee, is not rendered timely by the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (the "Act"). The court's decision limits the reach the Act, and it is now clear that claims involving discrete acts of discrimination are not covered by the Act.

The decision involved discrimination claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act brought by Emmanuel Noel, an African-American employee at Boeing's Ridley Park, Pennsylvania facility. Basically, Noel claimed that Boeing failed to award him off site job assignments, which allowed for higher pay and per diem payments, and failed to promote him to a higher pay grade around September 2003. At that time, two white employees were promoted to a higher pay grade. In March 2005, Noel filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and eventually filed a lawsuit in June 2006. Noel's suit alleged multiple counts of race and national origin-based employment discrimination and retaliation, but the trial court held for Boeing on all counts. Noel appealed only the trial court's finding that his failure to promote claim was untimely.

Under Title VII, an employee in Pennsylvania must file a complaint with the EEOC within 300 days of the alleged discriminatory act or it will be deemed untimely. Noel's complaint was filed with the EEOC in March 2005, well beyond the 300 day filing period following the alleged discriminatory promotion decision in September 2003. For this reason, the trial court dismissed his failure to promote claim. On appeal, Noel argued that the Act saved his otherwise untimely failure to promote claim.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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