A federal appeals court revived a Southern University professor's gender discrimination case, saying that she could allege a hostile work environment through continuous conduct going back two years before she filed her complaint.
The decision is significant because it clears up questions facing trial judges about the continuing violation doctrine in gender discrimination cases. The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals said it applies to claims of hostile work environment, allowing the Louisiana plaintiff to allege discriminatory conduct more than 300 days, and beyond the one-year statute of limitations, before filing the complaint.
"Claims alleging discrete acts are not subject to the continuing violation doctrine; hostile workplace claims are," the court said in Heath v. Board of Supervisors for the Southern University and Agricultural and Mechanical College.
"Hostile environment claims are 'continuing' because they involve repeated conduct, so the 'unlawful employment practice' cannot be said to occur on any particular day," Judge Gregg Costa wrote for the unanimous panel.