SCRA Tolls the Running of Statutes of Limitations
By Captain Samuel F. Wright, JAGC, USN (Ret.)
4.7—Extension of Statutes of Limitations and Redemption Periods
Q: In September 2007, my employer fired me, and I believe that he fired me because of my race, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I am in the Army Reserve, and I was called to active duty just two weeks after the firing. I wanted to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), but the press of preparation for the mobilization prevented me from doing so. I deployed to Iraq and did not have time to file a complaint during my active duty.
I was released from active duty on Sept. 1, 2009. A few days later, I filed a complaint with the EEOC. The EEOC office dismissed my complaint as untimely. Under Title VII, the complainant must ordinarily file a written complaint within 180 days after the personnel action to which the complaint pertains, and of course that 180-day deadline ran out long ago, while I was on active duty in Iraq. I protested that holding me to the deadline under these circumstances is unfair and ought to be illegal, but the EEOC insisted that my complaint was untimely filed and must be dismissed. Is the EEOC correct?
A: No. The EEOC is wrong. A provision in the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) is directly on point here: “The period of a servicemember’s military service may not be included in computing any period limited by law, regulation, or order for the bringing of any action or proceeding in a court, or in any board, commission, department, or other agency of a State (or political subdivision of a State) or the United States by or against the servicemember or the servicemember’s heirs, executors, administrators, or assigns.” 50 U.S.C. App. 526(a).
Congress could not have written this provision any more clearly. The 180-day deadline for you to file a written complaint was tolled (not running) during the period that you were on active duty, from September 2007 to September 2009. If you expended 14 days before you went on active duty, you still had another 166 days to expend after you returned from active duty.
If you have questions, suggestions, or comments, please contact Captain Samuel F. Wright, JAGC, USN (Ret.) (Director of the Servicemembers’ Law Center) at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-809-9448, ext. 730.
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