Lewis v. City of Chicago

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  • Workplace Equality and Economic Empowerment
  • Racial Justice
  • Joined Amicus Brief
2010

Determined that the requirements for the timely filing of federal employment discrimination claims are regulated by the facts of the case, not a bright-line rule.

Summary of the Case

A class of African-American applicants to Chicago's Fire Department challenged the city's discriminatory testing and hiring practices by filing charges of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The firefighters' test scores fell in the "qualified" range on the city's written screening test. Although they were officially eligible for hire, they were told that they most likely would not be hired because they did not score in the "well-qualified" range. 

Their complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claimed the test had a disproportionate impact on black applicants and was not a valid test. The city argued that because the EEOC charges were filed more than 300 days after the test results were announced—and therefore outside the EEOC's time requirement—they should be thrown out.  The applicants argued that their claims were within the 300 day deadline because the discriminatory act was not when the scores were announced, but each time the city used the scores to hire new firefighters. 

Our Role in the Case

Legal Momentum joined an amicus brief submitted by national women's rights organizations, arguing that a discriminatory act occurs every time the results of a discriminatory test is used, and therefore the EEOC charges were timely in this case.

Decision

The trial court ruled in favor of the applicants, but the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision. In a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court agreed with the trial court and supported the claims of class of African-American applicants to Chicago's Fire Department., holding that a violation does indeed occur each time a discriminatory use occurs.