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Blog Archive : February 2010

Miguel Alvarez posted a blog on Feb 22, 2010

U.S. Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument in Lewis vs. Chicago, Firefighters Case

On Monday, February 22, 2010 the United States Supreme Court heard oral argument in the Lewis v. Chicago case, a case litigated by CLC since 1998. The plaintiffs challenged Chicago's  1995 written firefighter entrance exam. The lower court determined that the exam illegally discriminated against African American applicants. To read a transcript of the Supreme Court oral argument, please see the page for Projects/Employment Opportunity Project/Lewis Firefighter case.

 

The New York Times printed an editorial on the firefighter case on 2/22/10. To read the editorial, click here. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/22/opinion/22mon2.html

Miguel Alvarez posted a blog on Feb 22, 2010

CEDLP Receives Chicago Neighborhood Development Award

Special Recognition Award ($5,000):

 

Community Economic Development Law Project (CEDLP) – Founded by the Chicago Lawyer’s Committee, the Legal Assistance Foundation and the Young Lawyers Section of the Chicago Bar Association in 1985, CEDLP performs the essential function of linking individuals and organizations in neighborhoods throughout Chicago to needed legal assistance, then often fades into the background and lets their clients get to work. CEDLP has helped thousands of community organizations and hundreds of small businesses and first-time homebuyers connect with volunteer lawyers to guide them through the legal requirements of starting a business, navigating zoning law, purchasing real estate and more. Over the years, CEDLP’s work has expanded, filling the gaps as it discovers needs for legal services. In addition to providing business law representation to non-profits, programs now include legal support for low-income individuals starting their own businesses, buying their first home or writing a will.

 

CEDLP continues to be the only public interest legal organization dedicated to assisting non-profit groups with their neighborhood revitalization efforts. Today, CEDLP marshals an average of $2 million in pro bono legal services each year.

Miguel Alvarez posted a blog on Feb 8, 2010

Supreme Court files Issue Brief in Lewis v. City of Chicago

.No. 08-974


IN THE

Supreme Court of the United States

ARTHUR L. LEWIS, JR., et al.,
Petitioners,
 
v.
 
CITY OF CHICAGO,
Respondent.
 
On Writ of Certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
 
REPLY BRIEF FOR THE PETITIONERS
 
CLYDE E. MURPHY
CHICAGO LAWYERS’ COMMITTEE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS UNDER LAW, INC.
100 N. LaSalle St.
Chicago, IL 60602
 
JOHN PAYTON
Counsel of Record
DEBO P. ADEGBILE
MATTHEW COLANGELO
JOY MILLIGAN
RYAN C. DOWNER
NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE &
EDUCATIONAL FUND, INC.
99 Hudson St., 16th Floor
New York, NY 10013
(212) 965-2200
 
JOSHUA CIVIN
NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE &
EDUCATIONAL FUND, INC.
1444 I St., NW, 10th Floor
Washington, DC 20005
 
Additional counsel
 
JUDSON H. MINER
GEORGE F. GALLAND, JR.
MINER, BARNHILL &
GALLAND, P.C.
14 W. Erie Street
Chicago, IL 60610
 
FAY CLAYTON
CYNTHIA H. HYNDMAN
ROBINSON, CURLEY &
CLAYTON, P.C.
300 S. Wacker Drive
Chicago, IL 60606
 
MATTHEW J. PIERS
JOSHUA KARSH
HUGHES, SOCOL, PIERS,
RESNICK & DYM LTD.
70 W. Madison Street
Chicago, IL 60602
 
BRIDGET ARIMOND
357 E. Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
 
PATRICK O. PATTERSON, JR.
LAW OFFICE OF PATRICK O.
PATTERSON, S.C.
7481 N. Beach Drive
Fox Point, WI 53217
 

INTRODUCTION

This case presents a narrowly focused dispute. In petitioners’ view, when an employer repeatedly uses a non-job-related hiring practice that disproportion-ately excludes African Americans, each use violates Title VII’s disparate-impact prohibition and there-fore triggers a new deadline to file charges with the EEOC. In the City’s view, if an employer first adopts an eligibility list and announces that it in-tends to use that list for subsequent hiring, the only actionable liability arises at the point of the list’s adoption and announcement.
 
There are many complex questions about the op-eration of Title VII, but this is not one of them. The plain text of Title VII’s disparate-impact provisions resolves this dispute in petitioners’ favor. The City “use[d]” its practice of hiring only applicants who scored 89 or above on a 1995 exam to fill ten entry-level firefighter classes, and a portion of an eleventh class, over a six-year period. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(k)(1)(A); see also id. § 2000e-2(a)(2), (h). Each of those uses “cause[d] a disparate impact” on petition-ers, a class of African Americans who passed the test but scored below the 89 cut-off score. Id. § 2000e-2(k)(1)(A). And as the district court found (and no one now challenges), the cut-off score was not job-related. Petitioners were as qualified for firefighter jobs as those with scores of 89 or above. Each use of the City’s hiring practice therefore independently violated Title VII’s disparate-impact prohibition and triggered a new charge-filing period.
 
The City’s contrary arguments are unconvincing. First, the City misconstrues the statutory text. The City claims that the disproportionate exclusion of African Americans from each firefighter class was merely the “neutral” consequence of the adoption and announcement of the eligibility list. Petitioners agree that the initial adoption of the list violated Title VII. But an independent violation also oc-curred each time the City used its non-job-related practice to select applicants from a disproportion-ately white pool to fill firefighter vacancies. Each such use was a discriminatory denial of jobs to quali-fied applicants on account of race—one of the core injuries that Congress intended Title VII to prohibit.
 
Second, the City objects that the accrual rule for disparate-impact cases should not be more generous than the rule this Court has applied in disparate-treatment cases. But the rule compelled by Title VII’s text is not more or less generous in either type of case. Rather, in both contexts, timeliness is gov-erned by application of this Court’s general Title VII accrual principle: A Title VII claim accrues each time an employer’s actions meet all the required elements of a particular type of violation. Here, that occurred each time the City used its unlawful cut-off score to hire entry-level firefighter candidates.
 
The City relies on United Air Lines, Inc. v. Evans to argue that its discriminatory cut-off score was “merely an unfortunate event in history which has no present legal consequences.” 431 U.S. 553, 558 (1977). But Evans was a disparate-treatment case. Although the adoption of an eligibility list based on an unlawful cut-off score was indeed an “unfortunate event,” the City’s use of this cut-off score in multiple rounds of hiring directly and repeatedly violated the disparate-impact provisions of Title VII. Like the high school diploma requirement in Griggs v. Duke Power Co., which was adopted almost ten years be-fore Title VII was enacted, the City’s non-job-related hiring practice was subject to challenge each time the City used it in a manner that caused a disparate impact. See 401 U.S. 424, 427 (1971).
Third, the City argues that the accrual rule com-pelled by Title VII’s text will expose employers to open-ended liability. But the City could have achieved repose here simply by dropping its admit-tedly discriminatory cut-off score, instead of using it on multiple occasions. Moreover, employees have every incentive to file prompt charges because they may challenge only those uses that occur within the limitations period. The City’s rule, by contrast, com-pels individuals to file charges before they can de-termine whether an employment practice has caused or will cause any practical harm. This would burden employees, employers, government enforcement agencies, and the courts with unnecessary proceed-ings.
 

ARGUMENT

 

I. The City’s arguments are contrary to the plain meaning of Title VII.

 
Section 706(e) of Title VII operates as a statute of limitations. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1). It requires that a lawsuit challenging employment discrimina-tion be preceded by a charge timely filed with the EEOC “within three hundred days after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred.” Id.
 
Where the challenged practice violates Title VII’s disparate-impact prohibition, the violation occurs, and thus a new charge-filing period begins, each time the requirements of § 703(k) are met—that is, each time an employer “uses a particular employ-ment practice that causes a disparate impact,” and the employer is unable to demonstrate that the prac-tice is job-related. Id. § 2000e-2(k)(1)(A); Pet. Br. 18-19. This plain-meaning interpretation of § 703(k) is supported by other provisions of Title VII, including § 703(a)(2) and § 703(h). 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(2), (h); Pet. Br. 23-27.
 
Applying Title VII’s disparate-impact provisions to this case, a new charge-filing period commenced each time the City filled firefighter vacancies by using its practice of hiring only applicants whose exam results exceeded a statistically meaningless cut-off score that disproportionately excluded Afri-can Americans and bore no relationship to job per-formance. Pet. Br. 23-27; Pet. App. 31a-35a.1
 
The City raises a series of objections to petition-ers’ statutory analysis. These arguments all collapse under scrutiny.
 

A. Section 703(k) is the principal disparate-impact provision and is directly relevant to the timeliness of claims.

 
The City acknowledges that § 703(k) “describes what is needed to prove a disparate-impact claim,” Resp. Br. 40, but contends nevertheless that this provision is irrelevant to “what is needed to trigger the limitations period.” Id. at 38. The City is mis-taken.
 
A Title VII charge must be filed “within three hundred days after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1). What constitutes an “alleged unlawful employment prac-tice” and when it “occurred” can only be determined by reference to the substantive provisions defining the elements of a Title VII violation. See, e.g., Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 550 U.S. 618, 624, 628-29 (2007); Nat’l R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101, 110-13 (2002); Pet. Br. 17-19.
 
One of the principal substantive provisions defin-ing the elements of a disparate-impact violation is § 703(k), which this Court has recognized as “the disparate-impact statute.” Ricci v. DeStefano, 129 S. Ct. 2658, 2673 (2009). In enacting § 703(k) as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, Congress stated that the purposes of this subsection are “to confirm statu-tory authority and provide statutory guidelines for the adjudication of disparate impact suits.” Pub. L. No. 102-166, § 3(3), 105 Stat. 1071, 1071; see also Ricci, 129 S. Ct. at 2673. It is therefore both appro-priate and necessary to look to the text of § 703(k) to determine when Title VII’s charge-filing period be-gins to run in a disparate-impact case.2
 
When § 703(k) is properly interpreted and the statute is read as a whole, the City’s argument that § 703(a)(2) is the sole pertinent provision for deter-mining disparate-impact claim accrual, Resp. Br. 38, falls apart. Sections 703(k) and 703(a)(2)—as well as § 703(h), which forbids “action upon the results” of an employment test that is “used to discriminate”—are all complementary. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(h); Pet. Br. 23-26; U.S. Br. 13-15.3 When an employer “uses” a hiring practice with a disparate racial impact and thus commits a violation under § 703(k), or when it takes “action upon the results” of an employment test contrary to § 703(h), its actions also violate § 703(a)(2). Such uses “limit applicants for employ-ment” in a manner that “deprive[s] or tend[s] to deprive” them of specific “employment opportuni-ties.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(2).
 
Prior to the enactment of § 703(k) in 1991, § 703(a)(2) and § 703(h) provided the statutory basis for disparate-impact liability. See, e.g., Griggs, 401 U.S. at 426 n.1, 433-36. But, as this Court has ob-served, § 703(k) “codif[ied]” an “express prohibition on policies or practices that produce a disparate impact.” Ricci, 129 S. Ct. at 2672. The City’s at-tempt to ignore a recent, express statutory text—and its consequent failure to harmonize all of Title VII’s operative disparate-impact provisions—would nullify congressional intent and should be rejected. See FDA v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., 529 U.S. 120, 132-33, 143-44 (2000).4
 

B. The City repeatedly used an unlawful hiring practice, and each use triggered a new claim under § 703(k).

 
1. The City alternatively argues that, even if § 703(k) is relevant, petitioners’ EEOC charges were untimely because the City “use[d]” a practice that “cause[d] a disparate impact” only once: when it adopted an eligibility list that employed a non-job-related cut-off score to sort applicants who passed the 1995 exam into “well qualified” and “qualified” categories, and then announced that it would use this list for future hiring. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(k)(1)(A); Resp. Br. 8-9, 11, 23-25, 40. After that, the City claims that it simply “used the list . . . to call from the ‘well qualified’ category.” Resp. Br. 40. According to the City, that category was “facially neutral, and the list was used in a neutral manner.” Id. at 31.5
 
Under the statute’s disparate-impact provisions, however, employers are liable for “practices, proce-dures, or tests neutral on their face, and even neu-tral in terms of intent.” Griggs, 401 U.S. at 430; see also Ricci, 129 S. Ct. 2672-73; Dothard v. Rawlinson, 433 U.S. 321, 329 (1977). Section 703(k) prohibits employers from “us[ing]” a non-job-related hiring practice that has a disparate racial impact, regard-less of whether such a use is a consequence—neutral or otherwise—of earlier violations. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(k)(1)(A). Contrary to the City’s contention, Resp. Br. 36-37, consequences are the very touch-stone of a disparate-impact violation. Griggs, 401 U.S. at 432.
 
Moreover, the City did not use its eligibility list in “a neutral manner.” Resp. Br. 31. It is entirely beside the point that the City applied the label “well qualified” to the category of applicants who scored 89 or above. That category was nothing more than a direct translation of the discriminatory cut-off score. The accurate label would have been the “no more qualified” group. The City’s attempt, Resp. Br. 11-12, to distinguish between use of this cut-off score to create an eligibility list, on the one hand, and the actual use of the list, on the other hand, is mere semantics. U.S. Br. 16; Pet. Br. 40-43.
 
If the City had simply used the discriminatory cut-off score eleven times, without announcing that it had adopted an “eligibility list,” each hiring round plainly would have violated Title VII’s disparate-impact provisions. On each occasion, the City would have had to consult raw test scores for all 22,000 applicants who passed the 1995 exam—each time selecting at random a sufficient number of appli-cants with scores of 89 or above to fill entry-level firefighter jobs. Thus, each of those hiring rounds necessarily would have involved the “use[ ]” of a cut-off score that, based on the district court’s unap-pealed findings, “cause[d]” an unjustified “disparate impact” on African American applicants. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(k)(1)(A); Pet. App. 15a, 42a-43a.
 
The City did not change the result in any way, or drastically reduce its liability, by adopting and an-nouncing an eligibility list. The difference between a hiring process that relies on an eligibility list and one that does not is one of form, not substance. By using the discriminatory cut-off score to create an eligibility list, the City avoided using the entire pool of applicants to select at random, in each round of hiring, a sufficient number of applicants to fill a firefighter class.
 
Whether it used an eligibility list or not, the City relied, in each round of hiring, on a non-job-related cut-off score that it knew had a disparate impact on African American applicants. Either way, the end result was the same. In each round of hiring, the City filled positions by randomly selecting from a pool of disproportionately white applicants and thus disproportionately excluded African Americans who were no less qualified. See Pet. App. 60a.6 And either way, the City rejected the readily available alternative of random selection from the entire pool of test-passers—an alternative that would have avoided all harm to petitioners caused by the dis-criminatory cut-off score. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(k)(1)(A)(ii), (C).7
 
2. According to the City, it is “precisely because using the list limited petitioners’ employment oppor-tunities ‘in the exact same way’ as ‘us[ing] the raw test results’” that “later use of the list had no dispa-rate impact at all.” Resp. Br. 35 (quoting U.S. Br. 16). But the plain language of the statutory text forecloses the City’s argument. Section 703(k) does not exempt “uses” of a non-job-related practice that cause a disparate impact if they limit employment opportunities in the “same way” as prior Title VII violations. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(k)(1)(A); Pet. Br. 29-30; U.S. Br. 24. Moreover, § 703(h) expressly states that a discriminatory “test,” “its administration,” and “action upon the results” can each be violations of Title VII, even though such violations necessarily will be related and may yield the same disparate impact. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(h).
 
There is also a larger point here. Even the City acknowledges that its adoption and announcement of the list were merely “the foundation for later hiring eligibility.” Resp. Br. 26. But when the eligibility list was announced, no hiring decisions had been made. The adverse impact on petitioners caused by the City’s announcement that it would use the unlawful cut-off score, and the list that embodied that score, was dwarfed by the new and distinct harm caused when the City actually put its hiring practice into operation. It was the City’s repeated uses of a non-job-related cut-off score—whether or not it was in list form—that resulted in the award of jobs to a group of applicants that disproportionately excluded African Americans.
 
To be clear, petitioners agree with the City and the United States that the City’s adoption and an-nouncement of the list independently violated Title VII, and therefore petitioners’ charges would have been timely if filed within 300 days of those actions. See Resp. Br. 24, 30; U.S. Br. 23. But the remedy in such an action would have been an order preventing the City from using the cut-off score and eligibility list. See, e.g., Vulcan Pioneers v. N.J. Dep’t of Civil Serv., 832 F.2d 811, 816-17 (3d Cir. 1987). In fact, the claim would have been that any future uses would be unlawful. As the district court found, those uses were unlawful, and every time the City filled firefighter vacancies on that basis, it violated Title VII and started a new charge-filing period.
 
3. The City argues that the only disparate im-pact on petitioners was caused when it announced the eligibility list, because petitioners knew at that point what the future consequences were likely to be. Resp. Br. 10-11, 13, 27-29, 46. However, a disparate-impact claim is not triggered by the mere fact that an employer places job applicants or employees on notice of a discriminatory policy and its potential future impact on them. Section 703(k) does not make notice an element—let alone the defining ele-ment—of a disparate-impact violation. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(k)(1)(A). This Court has stated that notice is insufficient by itself to trigger accrual of Title VII claims. See Morgan, 536 U.S. at 113; see also Ledbetter, 550 U.S. at 636.8 Regardless of when they were notified, petitioners were entitled to take the full limitations period after each use of the City’s discriminatory hiring practice to develop and file their EEOC charges.
 
The City attempts to bolster its analysis by argu-ing, without citation, that a job applicant’s Title VII claim accrues when he or she is “rejected for employment” and “does not depend on whether an em-ployer hires others.” Resp. Br. 26; see also id. at 11. This assertion is incorrect. First, petitioners were rejected for employment each time the City passed them over by filling entry-level firefighter positions from a pool of disproportionately white applicants with no greater qualifications. Pet. Br. 20. Second, a disparate-impact violation is not established solely by reference to the impact on job applicants or em-ployees who claim to have been injured. Determin-ing whether a practice “causes a disparate impact,” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(k)(1)(A), obviously requires comparison to similarly situated individuals who benefit from the practice. See, e.g., Watson v. Fort Worth Bank & Trust, 487 U.S. 977, 995 (1988); Pet. Br. 21-22.
 

C. The City’s hiring practice caused a dis-parate impact in each round of hiring.

 
After arguing that its eleven rounds of hiring were not independently actionable, the City switches gears. Even if each round could “be charged as a new violation” of Title VII, Resp. Br. 33, the City claims that petitioners “never proved, or even at-tempted to prove,” that each of these uses caused a disparate impact. Id. at 32; see also id. at 40.
 
This argument is factually incorrect. Testimony from one of petitioners’ experts demonstrated that in each of the eleven rounds of hiring, the City’s use of the discriminatory cut-off score resulted in the selec-tion of African American applicants at rates far lower than the percentage they represented in the pool of test-passers—that is, the pool of applicants who scored 65 or above and thus proved themselves fully qualified for the job. R. 366 at 1-4 & attach. B; Pet. Br. 22; Pet. App. 15a-16a.
 
This evidence was uncontested. The City’s expert agreed with and “adopted” the calculations by peti-tioners’ expert of the shortfall number of African American applicants who would have been hired in each class but for the City’s use of its discriminatory hiring practice. R. 371 at 6.9
 

II. The City misconstrues this Court’s precedents.

 
Notwithstanding the City’s contentions, this Court’s prior decisions addressing the timeliness of Title VII claims neither hold nor suggest anything inconsistent with the plain meaning of the statute’s disparate-impact provisions. All the cases are con-sistent with the conclusion that each use of a non-job-related practice that causes a disparate impact violates the statute and triggers a new charge-filing period.
 

A. Each new Title VII violation begins a new charge-filing period.

 
The Court’s precedents establish a simple accrual principle applicable to all Title VII cases: A claim accrues, and thus a new charge-filing period starts, each time an employer’s actions satisfy the required elements of a particular type of Title VII violation. See, e.g., Del. State Coll. v. Ricks, 449 U.S. 250, 258 (1997) (holding that timeliness turns on “whether any present violation exist[ed]” within the charge-filing period (quoting Evans, 431 U.S. at 558)); Pet. Br. 34-35.
 
Applying this principle does not require an as-sessment of whether disparate-treatment violations involve “greater moral culpability” than disparate-impact violations, as the City contends. Resp. Br. 37. Rather, in both disparate-treatment and dispa-rate-impact cases, the charge-filing period corre-sponds to the statutorily-defined elements of the particular violation. U.S. Br. 27; Pet. Br. 34-37.10
 
In a disparate-treatment case—where the defin-ing element is intent—the charge-filing period runs from the date of each intentionally discriminatory practice. Pet. Br. 34-40. This is true of both one-time employment transactions and repeated uses of general policies. As to the latter, if the policy is repeatedly implemented under circumstances that demonstrate present discriminatory intent, then each use is a new violation. See Ledbetter, 550 U.S. at 634; Lorance v. AT&T Techs., Inc., 490 U.S. 900, 912 n.5 (1989); Bazemore v. Friday, 478 U.S. 385, 386-87 (1986) (per curiam); id. at 394-96 (Brennan, J., concurring). But if the practice is later used un-der circumstances where no discriminatory motive is involved, there is no new violation. See Ledbetter, 550 U.S. at 625-26.
 
The same principle governs disparate-impact cases. In such cases—where discriminatory intent is not a required element—a claim accrues whenever the employer uses a non-job-related employment practice that causes a disparate impact. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(k)(1)(A); Lorance, 490 U.S. at 908; Pet. Br. 31, 36-37. If a plaintiff proves that an em-ployer repeatedly used an employment practice that caused a disparate impact on a protected group, then he or she is in the same position as a plaintiff in a disparate-treatment case who proves that a subse-quent use of a policy was motivated by present dis-criminatory intent. In both cases, the charge-filing period starts running again with each use. See Ledbetter, 550 U.S. at 636 (“[A] freestanding viola-tion may always be charged within its own charge-filing period regardless of its connection to other violations.”).
 
Thus, the City’s response that no facially dis-criminatory practice was alleged or proved here, Resp. Br. 45 n.13, misses the point. The critical issue is whether the employer’s conduct satisfied, within the charge-filing period, the elements of the particular type of Title VII violation alleged by the plaintiffs. A facially discriminatory system can con-sequently be challenged each time it is applied be-cause the element of discriminatory intent is satis-fied on each occasion. See Ledbetter, 550 U.S. at 634. Similarly, a practice that has an unjustified dispa-rate impact can be challenged each time it is used—as long as the elements of a disparate-impact viola-tion are satisfied on each occasion, as they were here each time the City used its discriminatory hiring practice.
 
Proper application of the Court’s basic accrual principle undermines the City’s reliance on Ricks, 250 U.S. 449 (1980), and Chardon v. Fernandez, 454 U.S. 6 (1981) (per curiam). In both cases, employees challenged their termination as intentionally dis-criminatory. But the actual end of employment, which was the only event within the charge-filing period, was merely a consequence of an earlier deci-sion outside the charge-filing period; the later event did not involve a new use of a practice with the re-quired element of discriminatory intent on the em-ployer’s part. Chardon, 454 U.S. at 8; Ricks, 250 U.S. at 258. These disparate-treatment cases do not purport to decide claim accrual where, as here, each subsequent use of an employment practice satisfies all elements of a disparate-impact violation. Pet. Br. 38-40.
 

B. This Court’s cases do not permit the City to treat repeated post-adoption use of its eligibility list as lawful.

 
The City relies on United Air Lines v. Evans to claim that a discriminatory practice may be treated “as lawful” once the deadline for a challenge passes without a charge being filed. Resp. Br. 31 (quoting Evans, 431 U.S. at 558). The City’s position is that its eligibility list became the “legal equivalent of a discriminatory act which occurred before [Title VII] was passed,” and therefore “has no present legal consequences.” Id. at 14 (quoting Evans, 431 U.S. at 558).
 
Evans does not insulate the City’s eleven rounds of hiring from legal challenge for a simple reason. Evans was a disparate-treatment case in which the only alleged act of intentional discrimination was the plaintiff’s one-time termination under the airline’s policy prohibiting female flight attendants from marrying. 431 U.S. at 554-55. After the airline ended its no-marriage policy, Evans was rehired. Id. This Court held that her subsequent EEOC charge regarding the denial of seniority credit, due to the airline’s “past act of [intentional] discrimination,” was not timely because there was no subsequent application of a discriminatory policy. Id. at 558-60. Here, by contrast, petitioners challenged repeated uses of an employment practice that violated Title VII’s disparate-impact prohibition. The City’s mul-tiple rounds of hiring directly involved—and the outcome each time was determined by—a hiring practice that met all elements of a disparate-impact violation.
 
The problem with the City’s Evans-based analogy to pre-Act discrimination, Resp. Br. 14, 31, is dem-onstrated by an example drawn from Griggs. One of the challenged employment practices in Griggs was a high school diploma requirement for new hires and promotions. Duke Power had adopted this require-ment almost ten years before Title VII was enacted. 401 U.S. at 427. The Court unanimously recognized that a failure to hire or promote African Ameri-cans—even when that failure was based on older, pre-Title VII criteria—violated the statute at the time those individuals were passed over and others were selected for jobs after the statute’s effective date. Id. at 431-33. There was no discussion in Griggs of limiting Duke Power’s liability for the “neutral consequences” of past acts. Cf. Resp. Br. 31, 36-37.
 
Assume that, before the enactment of Title VII, Duke Power had adopted and announced a list of employees who had earned high school diplomas and thus were eligible for future promotions. Pre-Title VII, an African American employee passed over for a promotion because his name did not appear on the list would not have had a claim; but the same em-ployee would have had a claim if, for the same rea-son, Duke Power failed to select him for a subse-quent promotion after the effective date of Title VII. This reasoning is a straightforward application of the plain meaning of Title VII’s disparate-impact provisions. The employer would have used a non-job-related practice to deny the promotion, that use would have caused a disparate impact, and therefore a present violation of the statute would have existed at the time of the use. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(2), (h), (k)(1)(A); Griggs, 401 U.S. at 431-33. The same reasoning, applied to this case, explains why peti-tioners’ charges were timely.
 

C. The Court should apply its disparate-impact accrual analysis from Lorance.

 
In Lorance, the Court articulated precisely how its Title VII accrual principle applies to disparate-impact claims. The Court recognized that, had the plaintiffs in Lorance been able to pursue a disparate-impact claim,11 Title VII’s “statute of limitations [would have] run from the time that impact is felt.” 490 U.S. at 908; see also Pet. Br. 31-32.
 
The City argues that assuming Lorance’s reason-ing applies, petitioners felt the “entire impact” upon the adoption of the eligibility list. Resp. Br. 35; see also id. at 23-24. That view is inconsistent with Lorance itself. The Court in Lorance acknowledged that the plaintiffs felt the impact of the seniority system not just at the time it was adopted, but also upon their demotions several years later. 490 U.S. at 905-06, 908. Similarly, petitioners in this case felt the impact of the discriminatory cut-off score not only upon the adoption and announcement of the eligibility list, but each time the City used its hiring practice to exclude them from consideration when it filled firefighter positions. See supra Part I.B.
Ultimately, this is a case about jobs, not eligibil-ity lists. When petitioners received notification that the City had adopted and announced an eligibility list, the full impact of the City’s discriminatory hir-ing practice was still in the future. That full impact was not felt until the City actually used its hiring practice to fill jobs with applicants from a pool that discriminatorily excluded petitioners.12
 

III. The City’s policy arguments are inappo-site and do not override Title VII’s text.

 
The City’s concerns about repose, prompt filing, and preservation of evidence are unpersuasive. The City also fails to address convincingly the risk that the accrual rule it proposes could flood government enforcement agencies with premature charges.
 
First, the City is incorrect that a plain-meaning interpretation of Title VII would subject employers to “open-ended liability.” Resp. Br. 13. If an em-ployer is concerned about being exposed to liability after each use of a discriminatory practice, it need only stop using the practice, which would have been easy for the City to do here. Pet. Br. 48. Moreover, job applicants or employees can recover only for injuries resulting from the particular uses of an unlawful employment practice that they timely chal-lenge. Cf. Klehr v. A.O. Smith Corp., 521 U.S. 179, 189-90 (1997).13
 
Second, notwithstanding the City’s contrary ar-guments, Resp. Br. 49-51, a plain-meaning interpre-tation of Title VII encourages victims to file prompt charges in order to preserve the possibility of comprehensive relief. It is simply not the case that Title VII “frequently require[s] firing the person who was hired” pursuant to a discriminatory practice. Id. at 50. “Lower courts have uniformly held that relief for actual victims does not extend to bumping employees previously occupying jobs.” Firefighters Local Union No. 1784 v. Stotts, 467 U.S. 561, 579 n.11 (1984); see also Barbara T. Lindemann & Paul Grossman, 2 Employment Discrimination Law 2722, 2724-25 (4th ed. 2007); Pet. Br. 47.
 
Third, the City overstates the risk of memory lapses in disparate-impact cases as a justification for its narrow accrual rule. Resp. Br. 46-48. The City never explains how it was disadvantaged in this case by the four-month difference between November 1996, when petitioners’ EEOC charges would have been timely under the City’s proposed rule, and March 1997, when petitioners actually filed their charges. In fact, well before November 1996, the City was on notice of petitioners’ claims, Pet. App. 48a, and therefore had ample opportunity to pre-serve whatever evidence it wished for a trial that did not occur until several years later.14
 
As the only example of evidence that was lost due to the passage of time, the City points to the failure of its deputy personnel commissioner to recall at trial whether he ever calculated the difference in adverse impact that would have resulted from select-ing applicants in strict rank order rather than through random selection. See Resp. Br. 47-48 & n.14. But the district court did not rely on this evi-dence in deciding any issue, and the City does not attempt to explain how it could have helped prove job-relatedness. Nor does the City explain why, if it believed that such evidence could have been relevant or helpful, it did not take steps to preserve it after petitioners filed EEOC charges in March 1997.15
 
Finally, the City acknowledges that its proposed accrual rule may yield “some premature charges,” Resp. Br. 50, but it fails to recognize that it is in the interest of neither employers nor employees to re-quire potential plaintiffs to file charges before they can be sure that an employment practice will have any practical consequences. See Pet. Br. 48-50; U.S. Br. 32-33.
 
For instance, there may be little practical harm to minority applicants who receive the lowest qualify-ing scores on a test and are placed at the bottom of an eligibility list, if the employer ultimately decides to make offers to everyone on the list. Even if the test is clearly not job-related, the newly hired minority em-ployees may have little reason to challenge it and risk antagonizing their new employer. Under the City’s approach, however, the job applicants might be forced to bring challenges to a practice that does not later turn out to cause them any practical harm. In addition to fostering workplace strife, such an ap-proach would impose unnecessary obligations on the EEOC as well as state and local enforcement agen-cies that are already struggling to manage increas-ing caseloads with shrinking budgets. See Br. of Amicus Curiae International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies 14-16; U.S. Br. 31-33.
 

CONCLUSION

For the foregoing reasons, the judgment of the court of appeals should be reversed.
 
Respectfully submitted,
 
JOHN PAYTON
Counsel of Record
DEBO P. ADEGBILE
MATTHEW COLANGELO
JOY MILLIGAN
RYAN C. DOWNER
NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE &
EDUCATIONAL FUND, INC.
99 Hudson St., 16th Floor
New York, NY 10013
(212) 965-2200
 
JOSHUA CIVIN
NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE &
EDUCATIONAL FUND, INC.
1444 I St., NW, 10th Floor
Washington, DC 20005
 
CLYDE E. MURPHY
CHICAGO LAWYERS’
COMMITTEE FOR CIVIL
RIGHTS UNDER LAW
100 N. LaSalle St.
Chicago, IL 60602
 
JUDSON H. MINER
GEORGE F. GALLAND, JR.
MINER, BARNHILL &
GALLAND, P.C.
14 W. Erie St.
Chicago, IL 60610
 
MATTHEW J. PIERS
JOSHUA KARSH
HUGHES, SOCOL, PIERS,
RESNICK & DYM LTD.
70 W. Madison St.
Chicago, IL 60602
 
PATRICK O. PATTERSON, JR.
LAW OFFICE OF PATRICK O.
PATTERSON, S.C.
7481 N. Beach Dr.
Fox Point, WI 53217
 
FAY CLAYTON
CYNTHIA H. HYNDMAN
ROBINSON, CURLEY &
CLAYTON, P.C.
300 S. Wacker Dr.
Chicago, IL 60606
 
BRIDGET ARIMOND
357 E. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
 
February 5, 2010
 
 
 

ENDNOTES

1 Although the City hired paramedics and military veterans with scores below the 89 cut-off score, petitioners follow the convention used by the parties and courts below and refer to the City’s practice as hiring “only” applicants with scores of 89 or above to fill ten classes of firefighter candidates, and a por-tion of an eleventh class, from May 1996 through November 2002. Pet. Br. 6 n.1.

2 Section 703(k) is titled “Burden of proof in disparate im-pact cases.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(k). Far from undercutting the significance of § 703(k) for claim accrual, as the City claims, Resp. Br. 38, the title highlights the importance of this provi-sion. It is well settled that “the burden of proof is an essential element of the claim itself . . . .” Raleigh v. Ill. Dep’t of Reve-nue, 530 U.S. 15, 21 (2000); see also Am. Dredging Co. v. Miller, 510 U.S. 443, 454 (1994) (stating that the burden of proof is “a part of the very substance of [the plaintiff’s] claim and cannot be considered a mere incident of a form of procedure” (quoting Garrett v. Moore-McCormack Co., 317 U.S. 239, 249 (1942))). In any event, “the heading of a section cannot limit the plain meaning of the text.” Bhd. of R.R. Trainmen v. Balt. & Ohio R.R. Co., 331 U.S. 519, 528-29 (1947); accord Intel Corp. v. Advanced Micro Devices, Inc., 542 U.S. 241, 256 (2004).

3 The City’s concession that § 703(h) “is ‘a definitional pro-vision’ that ‘delineates which employment practices are illegal and thereby prohibited and which are not,’” Resp. Br. 41 (quot-ing Franks v. Bowman Transp. Co., 424 U.S. 747, 758 (1976)), is fatal to its argument that this provision, like § 703(k), is “irrelevant to accrual.” Id.

4 Contrary to the City’s contention, Resp. Br. 12, 37-38, pe-titioners have relied on the plain meaning of Title VII through-out this litigation. The petition for certiorari invoked § 703(k), Pet. 26, and the City responded without claiming that it did not have fair notice, Supp. BIO 8-10. In the district court and court of appeals, petitioners argued—consistent with the statutory interpretation advanced in this Court—that each use of the City’s hiring practice was a “fresh violation [of Title VII] for purposes of the statute of limitations.” R. 74 at 7 (Pls.’ Mem. Opp. Summ. J.); see also, e.g., R. 302 at 2 (Pls.’ Mem. Regarding Proposed Questions for Interlocutory Appeal); Pet. C.A. Br. 22 (“[E]very employment action taken pursuant to a Griggs-prohibited policy is a fresh violation of Title VII . . . .”). Even if petitioners’ reasoning is more “pellucidly articulate[d]” in this Court, however, “parties are not limited to the precise argu-ments they made below.” Harris Trust & Sav. Bank v. Salo-mon Smith Barney, Inc., 530 U.S. 238, 245 n.2 (2000) (quoting Yee v. City of Escondido, 503 U.S. 519, 534 (1992)).

5 The City disavows, Resp. Br. 33, the court of appeals’ rea-soning that the City’s adoption of its eligibility list was an “intervening neutral act.” Pet. App. 4a-5a. As discussed in petitioners’ opening brief, the court of appeals’ analysis is just as flawed as the City’s alternative formulation. Pet. Br. 40-43.

6 Notwithstanding its concession that the ruling on liability is “unchallenged,” Resp. Br. 32, the City tries to undercut the district court’s finding that the cut-off score bore no relation-ship to job performance. Pet. App. 30a. But the City’s asser-tion that applicants eventually hired from the “qualified” cate-gory “required remedial assistance,” Resp. Br. 6, was expressly rejected by the district court. It found that the anecdotal evi-dence presented by the City on this point was “not convincing.” Pet. App. 38a-40a & n.7.

7 In fact, the City subsequently used this alternative from 2002 to 2007 to hire numerous applicants with scores between 65 and 88, after it had exhausted the pool of applicants with scores at or above 89. BIO 1 & n.1. There was no evidence that firefighters who scored between 65 and 88 performed worse on the job than those who scored 89 or above. Pet. App. 36a-37a.

8 Lack of knowledge could toll a statute of limitations after a claim accrues; but petitioners do not assert in this Court that the charge-filing period should be tolled. Pet. Br. 13 n.8.

9 In any event, petitioners were not required to demon-strate that the City’s hiring practice had an adverse impact in each particular hiring round that differed in kind or degree from the adverse impact of a prior violation. Cf. Dothard, 433 U.S. at 329. Section 703(k) prohibits an employer from using “a particular employment practice that causes a disparate im-pact,” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(k)(1)(A), and this is what the City did. See U.S. Br. 12.

10 Because the same principle determines the timeliness of all Title VII claims, there is no need for the Court to depart from the plain meaning of the statute’s disparate-impact provi-sions in order to “avoid” purported “constitutional problems” that the City asserts but never explains. Resp. Br. 36 n.9.

11 Section 703(h) protects bona fide seniority systems from challenge on disparate-impact grounds. Lorance, 490 U.S. at 904-05.

12 Relying primarily on Machinists v. NLRB, 362 U.S. 411 (1960), the City also urges that cases addressing timeliness under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), 29 U.S.C. § 151 et seq., support its argument. Resp. Br. 31-32. The NLRA, however, does not contain the plain text found in § 703(k), nor does it contain anything like a disparate-impact prohibition. Furthermore, in Machinists, the plaintiffs’ chal-lenge was based on a single, earlier event, which could not be the subject of an unfair labor practice complaint due to the statute of limitations. 362 U.S. at 416-17. Here, by contrast, the City committed a fresh violation of Title VII each time it used its practice of hiring only applicants who scored 89 or above.

13 For this reason, if petitioners prevail, they do not oppose a remand for the district court to consider a modification to the portion of its judgment pertaining to the City’s first round of hiring. See Resp. Br. 30 n.5. Petitioners here contend that their EEOC charges were timely only with respect to the City’s second and subsequent uses of its hiring practice. Pet. Br. 8 n.3; U.S. Br. 5-6.

14 This case took more than ten years to proceed from the filing of EEOC charges in March 1997 to the district court’s entry of final judgment in April 2007. See Pet. App. 12a-13a, 49a; R. 404-05. It strains credulity for the City to argue that the case would have been resolved substantially sooner if the EEOC charges had been filed four months earlier. See Resp. Br. 28-29, 53.

15 In general, pertinent evidence in disparate-impact cases is unlikely to erode over time in light of the record maintenance obligations in the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures. Pet. Br. 48. The City claims that the Uniform Guidelines merely “counsel that this information ‘should’ be kept on hand . . . but do not mandate it.” Resp. Br. 48. As this Court has observed, however, employers “are required to main-tain” such records under the Uniform Guidelines. Wards Cove Packing Co. v. Atonio, 490 U.S. 642, 657-58 (1989) (quoting 29 C.F.R. § 1607.4(A)), superseded by statute on other grounds, Civil Rights Act of 1991, § 3(2), 105 Stat. at 1071.