Four-Year ?Statute ?of ?Limitations ?for ?Section?1981 Post-Contract Formation Discrimination
The Plaintiff class action alleged a racially motivated?? hostile?? work?? environment,?? given inferior employee status, and wrongfully terminated ?or ?transferred, ?in ?violation ?of ?42
U.S.C.? ?? 1981,? which? prohibits? race discrimination in making and enforcing contracts. The? employer? sought? summary? judgment applying Illinois? two-year statute of limitations as mandated by Goodman v. Lukens Steel Co.,
482? U.S.? 656,? 660? (1987),? which? held? that because section 1981, like section 1983, does not contain a statute of limitations, federal courts should borrow the most appropriate state statute of? limitations.?? ?The? Supreme? Court? disagreed. The Civil Rights Act of 1991 (?CRA?) amended section 1981 to allow claims for post-contract formation discrimination (by defining the phrase ?make and enforce contracts? to include ?termination of contracts and the enjoyment of all benefits, privileges, terms, and conditions…?), remedying the holding of Patterson v. McLean Credit? Union,? 491? U.S.? 164,? 171? (1989),? that such ?claims ?are ?not ?cognizable ?under ?section
- Congress then passed 28 U.S.C. ? 1658(a) creating a uniform four-year statute of limitations for all causes of action ?arising under an Act of Congress enacted after [December 31, 1990].? In Jones, the Court held that the plaintiff’s post- contract formation claims arose under the 1991
CRA, so those claims are subject to the federal four-year statute of limitation of section 1658(a), not state law. ?Note that Washington?s three-year personal ?injury ?statute ?of ?limitations, ?RCW ??4.16.080(2), should still apply to section 1981 claims of discrimination in contract formation (e.g., failure to hire), because those claims arise under the original statute before it was amended in 1991.? ?Jones v. R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co., No. 02-1205 (05/03/04, Stevens for a unanimous Court).