In a decision that will be hailed by workers’ rights advocatesand provoke grumbling among business groups, the Supreme Courtruled that the timeframe in which those seeking damages against aformer employer over “constructive discharge” can sue does notbegins when the employee officially resigns.

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Read: 8 of the worst kinds ofbosses

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Constructive discharge refers to a process by which an employerforces an employee to quit by making his or her job intolerablethrough harassment or discrimination.

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Generally, employees who make such claims have 180 days afterthe last act of harassment to file suit with the Equal EmploymentOpportunity Commission (EEOC) or up to 300 days in states that havetheir own agencies for dealing with such claims.

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But it’s not exactly clear when the clock starts on thattimeframe.

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Read: Bad bosses causing employees to quitin droves

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The case before the court actually dealt with a postal workerwho, like all federal employees, is subject to a strict timeframefor filing suit: 45 days. Saying that he had been told to eitherretire or be relocated at much lower pay, he filed suit shortlyafter he resigned, alleging racial discrimination.

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The court rejected the Postal Service’s contention that theclock should have started two months earlier, when he was presentedwith the resignation proposal. Instead, in a 7-1 decision,Green v. Brennan, the court reasoned that the resignationitself amounted to the last alleged instance ofharassment.

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Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas was the lone dissenter inthe case. Thomas rejected the notion that the resignation itselfwas an act of discrimination, and that only the employer’s actionscould be construed as such.

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Read: How bosses from hell cripple theeconomy

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Although the case did not deal specifically with the 180 daytimeframe in place for private sector employees, legal observerssay the ruling will guide other courts’ decisions on such cases forall types of employers.

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Brian Netter, an attorney with Mayer Brown in Washington, D.C.,told the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) that thedecision highlights the importance of keeping a paper traildocumenting exactly when employees resign.

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