Christopher R. O'Hara won a major victory on behalf of national high-tech staffing firm. In an action asserting claims of sexual harassment, gender discrimination and retaliation brought by a former recruiter, Superior Court Judge Kottmyer ruled that the plaintiff's claims were time-barred and dismissed the lawsuit in its entirety.
The plaintiff alleged acts of ongoing sexual harassment and gender discrimination from 1999 until February 2003. She voluntarily resigned on September 14, 2003, but did not file suit at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination until June 21, 2004. Because discrimination claims generally must be brought within 300 days of the last discriminatory act, only events occurring on or after August 21, 2003 were timely filed with the MCAD. Recognizing this problem, the plaintiff argued that the continuing violation doctrine should apply because her resignation -- the only timely event -- substantially related to the earlier incidents of alleged abuse and therefore she should be allowed to seek damages on all of the allegations. The Court rejected this argument and expanded existing law. The Court held that the plaintiff must allege more than that her voluntary resignation occurred within the statute of limitations to apply the continuing violation doctrine; there also must be at least one timely act of harassment.
The Court also ruled that the plaintiff's claims were time barred because a reasonable person would have or should have known more than 300 days prior to filing the complaint that there was an allegedly hostile environment that was unlikely to improve. The Court based this ruling on the fact that the 19 months prior to filing the complaint the plaintiff sent specific emails from her work email account to her personal email account to, in the plaintiff's own words, "create a record" and because she allegedly was "the recipient of offensive behavior."