454 U.S. 6 (1981), 81-249, Chardon v. Fernandez

Docket Nº:No. 81-249
Citation:454 U.S. 6, 102 S.Ct. 28, 70 L.Ed.2d 6
Party Name:Chardon v. Fernandez
Case Date:November 02, 1981
Court:United States Supreme Court

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454 U.S. 6 (1981)

102 S.Ct. 28, 70 L.Ed.2d 6




No. 81-249

United States Supreme Court

Nov. 2, 1981




Held: With respect to the claims of respondents, former nontenured administrators in the Puerto Rico Department of Education, that their terminations of employment violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the applicable 1-year limitations period began to run from the dates when they received letters notifying them that their appointments would terminate at specified dates in the future, rather than from the dates of actual termination. Cf. Delaware State College v. Ricks, 449 U.S. 250.

Certiorari granted; May 8, 1981, judgment (648 F.2d 765) and June 11, 1981, judgments reversed and cases remanded.

Per curiam opinion.


Respondents were nontenured administrators in the Puerto Rico Department of Education during the 1976-1977

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school year.1 On dates prior to June 18, 1977, each respondent was notified by letter that his appointment would terminate at a specified date between June 30 and August 8, 1977. On June 19, 1978, Rafael Rivera Fernandez filed a complaint alleging that the terminations violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The District Court dismissed the suit, holding that the action had accrued on the date the employees received the letters, and that the claims were therefore barred by the applicable 1-year statute of limitations, P.R.Laws Ann., Tit. 31, § 5298(2) (1968). The Court of Appeals for the First Circuit reversed on the ground that the limitations period did not begin running until respondents' [102 S.Ct. 29] appointments ended. 648 F.2d 765 (1981).

The decision below is contrary to a recent decision of this Court: Delaware State College v. Ricks, 449 U.S. 250 (1980). In that case, Ricks filed suit alleging that the denial of tenure at a state college deprived him of his rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and under 42 U.S.C. § 1981. And we held that the applicable limitations periods began to run when Ricks was denied tenure, rather than on the date his employment terminated. His action was, therefore, time-barred

The Court of Appeals for the First Circuit distinguished Ricks on the ground that Ricks had alleged that denial of tenure was the "unlawful employment practice," whereas here, respondents allege that termination of their employment as administrators was the "unlawful employment practice."

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We think Ricks is indistinguishable. When Ricks was denied tenure, he was given a 1-year "terminal" contract. Thus, in each case, the operative decision was made -- and notice given -- in advance of a designated date on which employment terminated.2

In Ricks, we held that the proper focus is on the time of the discriminatory act, not the point at which the consequences of the act become painful. 449 U.S. at 258. The fact of termination is not itself an illegal act. In Ricks,the alleged illegal act was racial discrimination in the tenure decision. Id. at 259. Here, respondents allege that the decision to terminate was made solely for political reasons, violative of First Amendment rights. There were no other allegations, either in Ricks or in these cases, of illegal acts subsequent to the date on which the decisions to terminate were made. As we noted in Ricks, "[m]ere continuity of employment, without more, is insufficient to prolong the life of a cause of action for employment discrimination." Id. at 257. In the cases at bar, respondents were notified, when they received their letters, that a final decision had been made...

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