Archive for the ‘the law’ Category

Haiku Quartet, Justice For Justine

July 18, 2017

1. “Woman calls nine one – one; reports a crime; gets shot – by responding cops”

2. “Unarmed woman in – jammies gets shot by cops in clean – well lighted alley”

3. “Minnesota’s cops – are still trigger happy and – way outta control”

4. “The ugly truth: we – are a gun culture where cops – are licensed to kill”

Haiku Duet, Did You Win Or Did Everybody Lose?

May 5, 2017

“Healthy rich people – are winners; disabled poor – people are losers”

“Oh, and the bastards – also just did away with – healthy school lunches”

Haiku Duet, GOP Inflicts Cruel And Unusual Punishment

May 4, 2017

“Republicans claim – to follow Christ but love to – make people suffer”

“We must mobilize – opposition to DC’s – unholy madness”

Haiku, Pay Now Or Pay Later

April 11, 2017

“Lawyers should be on – United and O’Hare like – june bugs on dog shit”

Bartleby is the role model for how to survive a cubicle job; an office is just a large cubicle

February 27, 2008

Melville and Bartleby: Facing the End of an Audienceby Jon Thompson
Posted: February 18, 2008

Everything is again set in motion–called into question–by writing.

-Edmond Jabès

§ What can we face? The face as mystery, sign, image. “Bartleby” stages the terrible unworkability of faces, the equally terrible unknowability of our own. Facing it, face offs, to turn one’s face to the wall, to lose face, to gain it. The tragedy of each is the tragedy of all…

§ The worker consents or faces death. This is Bartleby’s recognition. But in consenting, ironically, he also faces death, the death of the self. It doesn’t matter that the self is a fiction. In fact, the murder of the fictive self, the self that finds a place within society, that has basked in social approval, is more tortuous and painful than the death of any actual self. This is what it means to “lose face.”

§ Becoming a pariah is one thing; becoming exiled from who you thought you once were is another. Or is Bartleby’s slow, deliberate journey of self-exile a journey to freedom? So: Heaven has levels, degrees. In reality, it is only an idea.

§ The slow, sad spectacle of the self, staging its own death for an audience that doesn’t exist.

§ The audience that has not yet found the means to look about and see that the drama is in the clapping, not in the performance, the one loud roar of approval that sweeps aside both the past and the future.

§ Freedom from external restraint, unto death. “Freedom-from” versus “freedom-in”: in this most free of nations, there is no freedom-in being. Your freedom is guaranteed by the right to die by yourself, with whatever self you can covet unencumbered by love or relation. No one would dream of curtailing that freedom. Bartleby: the nineteenth-century ancestor to every homeless person wandering aimlessly on America’s streets, each one the sovereign of all he surveys.

§ Bartleby never argued with anyone; he never tried to prove a point, win converts, vanquish foes. What does this lack of rhetorical aggression signify? The fruitlessness of conversion via argumentation? The failure of rhetoric? The contamination of rhetoric by a culture in which most “disinterested” expressions cloak naked self-interest? Bartleby’s “I prefer not to” exists as an assertion of will–but not will-to-truth.

§ The most destructive of all faces: benign tolerance. This is the face of Bartleby’s employer. It disguises its own intolerance within a mask of benevolence. Worse: because that intolerance cannot be admitted, it does not exist. And because it does not exist, it is free to become pitiless.

§ Behind the narrator’s courteousness, theatrical benevolence, and good manners lurks the threat of violence. Without these rhetorical forms, manners, forms of self-presentation, capitalist society would be undressed, its violence made manifest. With them, it is dressed up as civilized, moral, benevolent. Bartleby forces it to undress; he forces it to endure the shame of exposure, the danger of self-recognition. Therefore society takes its revenge upon Bartleby.

§ About Bartleby, the narrator says, “No materials exist, for a full and satisfactory biography of this man.” In being unknown and unknowable, Bartleby exists as a threat to society’s will-to-know, to narrative itself. That which is un-narratable must be narrated, must be known.

§ Everyone, everything must be faced, categorized, reported upon. To be unknown and unknowable is to incur the wrath of custom and law that demands a modest amount of submission.

§ Those about “whom nothing is ascertainable” defy the order of things, which rests on the ability to recognize, ascertain, assess. One death meets another.

§ “What my own astonished eyes saw of Bartleby, that is all I know of him.” Astonishment polices reality: it turns it into heaven or hell. Hell is what is unrecognizable; heaven is only a name for what can be recognized.

§ The voice of doxa is the voice of comfort and reassurance. It speaks–not in terms of certainties, but givens. It refuses its own name.

§ To trade in “bonds,” “mortgages” and “title deeds” is to trade in articles of possession. Within this world, language–writing–becomes the guarantor of ownership. The language of the law attempts to contain the irreducible play of meaning in language, its fundamentally mercurial dynamic nature, by means of complete discrimination, complete description. Through exactitude and precision it attempts to forestall all contingency, all unforeseen contexts. Bartleby’s refusal to yield his soul defies a social order possessed by the desire to possess everything and to translate its own imperial ambition into an idiom of benevolence and generosity.

§ The soul is what is withheld; the soul is that which is proffered without being acknowledged as such. It is then material and invisible. The achievement of Bartleby is that he maintains, in large part, the invisibility of his soul. This, too, is his tragedy; it is also the tragedy of the society that demands it.

§ What is safety in a world made “safe” by money? The mansion becomes the mausoleum.

§ “Poetic enthusiasm” will always be an embarrassment in the face of prudence and method. Prudence–thou knows not what thou art!

§ In a society in which the lack of “poetic enthusiasm” is judged to be good, any evidence of it will be seen as a weakness, a failure of restraint.

§ Wall Street. Even the name is mythological: destiny materialized within the flux of numbers rising or falling on the stock exchange. The market depends upon fluctuation, but fluctuation within limits. Wall Street creates walls, as well as the need for them. It also creates a demand for a limit to tolerance. In a market society, tolerance must be limited else there will be no profit. To be infinitely tolerant, that is, to be meaningfully tolerant, would require unending expenditure. Thus in market societies, tolerance becomes a most precious commodity; its value is dependent upon it being “cashed in” only rarely.

§ In 1653, Wall Street was named for a “barricade built by Peter Stuyveysant to protect the early Dutch settlers from the local Indians,” writes Peter Geisst in Wall Street: A History. Wall Street has always been then a place of barricades, an instrument of separation, a means to distance “entrepreneurial” settlers from the locals, a place of appropriation and exploitation. Indeed, it marks a border, a boundary, a space designed to produce both wealth and alienation. It marks a frontier; a defensive establishment already prepared against the backlash of the people beyond it. It thus exists as a predatory commercial site, though so “normalized” it virtually ceases to look or feel like one. Necessarily, it is a place of self-righteousness; wealth must be a sign of God’s favor. Yet there is uneasiness here too, rooted in the partially repressed recognition of the illegitimacy that comes from appropriation, which must always be legitimized. The aggressor must always be the victim.

§ Through his unorthodoxy, Bartleby challenges the liberal definition of benevolence. His employer, however, writes to convince us of his unsullied liberalism. The reader too is called upon to confirm the narrator’s own skewed self-image. In doing so, Melville shows the insecurity of the liberal mind–and its monstrosity. The entire world exists to confirm it in its essential benevolence. But since at some level it knows that it is not benevolent, the world exists to prop up a tattered fiction. Everything is sacrificed. The liberal mind: pitiless, egotistical, endlessly benign, endlessly serene.

§ Wall Street is presented to us as dialectic of “industry and life” by day an “emptiness” and “vacancy” by night. Bartleby shows, by contrast, the emptiness and vacancy of industry itself. Even to the narrator, Wall Street is a “Petra” and a ruined “Carthage.”

§ To blot a document for a scrivener is a mortal sin, for it reminds the reader that the law is not a distant, Olympian arbiter of right and wrong, but a frail, imperfect human institution… lawyers, not surprisingly, want to exorcise blots form their records. As if the law could be unblemished.

§ The impertinence of Bartleby: he does not negotiate the terms of his employment; he decides and acts off his own bat. Despite his mildness, his is the grossest kind of insubordination. Subordinates who take their own preferences in hand and follow them up challenge the legitimacy of authority. Thus the latent, nearly extinguished utopianism of “Bartleby”: what would be if all the wretched of the earth declared, “I prefer not to”?

§ Bartleby alone appears to be self-conscious, undeceived. This degree of self-awareness renders him unfit for labor which depends, to varying degrees, upon a dimming of self-knowledge, self-consciousness. Within American capitalism, self-knowledge brings the individual to a state of unfreedom. Its price: exile. To be self-conscious in America is to become an exile, a social outcast. Individualism becomes the compensatory myth for a society intolerant of it.

§ What is the black wall that Bartleby sees through his windowpanes? It is nothing but sheer blankness, Necessity, the limitation that he endures, the sum of limitations upon individual desire by the rule of law and social custom. It is the pitilessness of all laws, written and unwritten, that demand conformity and obedience. It is the primal scene of socialization in which the implacable order of things confronts human desire with its inhuman face.

§ To write the law over and over again, to copy it repeatedly, is to perform the individual’s subjection to the law: he is embodying it within language, enabling it to take material form; he is giving it his life force. The scrivener is not writing the law; it is writing itself through him. It is impervious to death and decay; the scrivener, by contrast, is mortal, temporal, frail, corruptible. The scrivener embodies the fate of the subject: to be subjected to the law is to be its subject. Which is synonymous with being subject-less. The irony of Melville’s parable: fleeing the death of the subject only hastens it.

§ The labor of the scrivener: writing without thinking, writing that faithfully and mindlessly duplicates the signifier, writing that has as its sole object the reproduction of the word of law–is this not a symbol of the co-opted labor of the intellectual working under the aegis of a reifying capitalism?

§ Bartleby arrives at his employer’s premises as an adult, but an adult without a history. It is this emptiness, this lack of a knowable past, the silence of his past, his solitude and lack of connection that distinguishes him, paradoxically, as history’s subject. His silence about his past only amplifies that untold drama. That past, that history, becomes too monumental to be written. It is unrepresentable, but in becoming unrepresentable, it acquires a ghostly presence. History haunts Bartleby. It is unseen but everywhere it makes itself felt with its uncanny presence. (Bartleby, too, becomes a wraith.)

§ Bartleby is stricken with life, with the burden of living.

§ Why does Bartleby begin his employment with an orgy of productivity? To obliterate the past? To identify himself with social expectation in a failed attempt to conform? The reasons are unknowable, perhaps to himself as well as Melville. That is respect for fiction.

§ Alternatively: Bartleby’s orgy of productivity at the beginning of his employment is the sign of the unconsciousness responding to the demands of everyday life. Bartleby’s frenzy mimics the law of productivity, becoming a grotesque parody of it. To live as a conformist is to live as a parody, to live as a mimic man. Bartleby prefers to live as a grotesque.

§ For Bartleby’s employer as for most representatives of the law, civil disobedience–“I prefer not to”–is a species of madness. In Paradise, refusal has always been a form of heresy, of madness. “What right do you have to reject Eden, my Eden”? (Even Ginger Nut thinks Bartleby is “luny.”)

§ For Bartleby, “reason” is unreason. Its tyranny is met by mildness, mildness that exists as reproach, gentle condemnation, a refusal to enter into the ugly economy of compulsion. Bartleby’s mildness, then, is utopian–or at least a faint sign of the utopian in a world degraded by imperatives. By contrast, Turkey affirms his employer’s rules “with submission.”

§ Bartleby is regarded by his employer as unreasonable, the very embodiment of unreason. What Bartleby forces us to see is that reason is a fiction authored by certain interests (the legal profession, the middle class, etc.) in order to legitimize themselves. Reason, of course, is always what you have but the other person does not. Since the Enlightenment, reason has been deified as Truth, but in so doing it betrays its own idealization. That which cannot be proven wrong becomes, by definition, an article of faith. We should speak of reasons rather than Reason. In actual practice, Reason has little to do with itself.

§ “Come forth and do your duty ” declares Bartleby’s employer to Bartleby. Duty: every society induces it to ensure its own reproduction. Duty is needed to overcome the inevitable revulsion toward the menial, the abhorrent, as well as the mundane. Doing one’s duty always involves an annihilation of the self–as well as a fulfillment of it.

§ Without irony, the master looks to the slave for confirmation of his essential benevolence; similarly, the employer demands of his employee that he confirm his employer’s sense of tolerance and benevolence. The annoyance Bartleby’s employer feels toward Bartleby is, if anything, exceeded by the irritation the other scriveners feel toward Bartleby for “shirking” his work. Turkey and Nipper’s inflamed response to Bartleby’s non serviam–“Shall I go and black out his eyes”–expresses the narrator’s own rage against Bartleby, a rage he cannot express himself inasmuch as it would give the lie to his own magnanimity. But it also allows him to act the role of the liberal, long-suffering employer (which in truth he is). “Bartleby” thus explores the psychic organization of labor under capitalism in which the wage earner expresses the anger and frustrations of his boss, which also become his. Melville reveals a system in which one class not only exploits another, but it also expects the exploited class to voice the angers, the frustrations, and the point of view of the dominant class, that is, the middle class. For Melville, this system is essentially two-faced. The question of voice or expression (the representation of what is internal) then becomes immensely fraught, caught up in the unconscious social imperative to speak for interests that are not one’s own. In part this explains Bartleby’s linguistic miserliness: to speak more would be to invite his speech to be infected by the speech and interests of another class. Bartleby’s linguistic minimalism resists this enforced class-based ventriloquism.

§ Failing to reform Bartleby, his employer takes it upon himself to read Bartleby’s protest as an opportunity to exercise his own moral improvement. That he fails is not a sign of his moral turpitude but a sign that moral improvement in a Puritan society is impossible.

§ Bartleby repossesses his employer’s premises. He has a fine indifference for property. Is it any wonder he must die?

§ “Immediately then the thought came sweeping across me, what miserable friendlessness and loneliness are here revealed.” To have his life interpreted for us by one with such suspect motives: this is Bartleby’s fate and that of all the dispossessed. He cannot narrate his own life, tell his own story in his own words. In Melville’s America, identity is not something you have or own; it is instead something conferred upon you by others. Identity is a function of how you are seen. In a society possessed by the drama of individualism, the social rears its ugly head by silently and efficiently forging an identity for every American, an identity that is never wholly available for inspection and understanding by the individual. The American self: one who thinks he knows himself utterly.

§ Spectre, spectator, specimen: Bartleby cannot escape the imprisonment of categories, more carceral than mortar.

§ The narrator says he feels a “bond of a common humanity” with Bartleby, yet his actions do not acknowledge the sanctity of any such bond. This then is the fate of the liberal mind: to feel one thing, but to have that feeling, that liberal sentiment, overborne by the “more practical” demands of class and the conformities a market society exacts.

§ “Pallid,” “miserable,” “silent,” “pale” “cadaverously gentlemanly”: Bartleby is not only deathly in appearance; he is death. Death to social convention, death to social custom, to normative expectation, to social behavior. Negating social expectation, Bartleby is negated. That is, he becomes more like who he is. He approaches the horizon of his identity, which is paradoxically nothing as well as being the unspeakable form of his resistance to social law. This is why the narrator pities him, hates him, loves him. As an object of pity, Bartleby’s unspoken critique of everything that narrator stands for (professionalism, class, respectability, tolerance, etc.) does not have to be engaged. Indeed, once made an object of pity his unspoken condemnation can be dismissed as eccentricity or lunacy.

§ The laws of property permit all kinds of plunder, invasion, appropriation. Because the narrator observes that Bartleby’s desk “is mine,” it, too, can be penetrated by him. He has in law, if not in ethics, a right to rifle Bartleby’s desk. The narrator possesses a will-to-truth vis-à-vis Bartleby: his mysteriousness, his reserve, his enigmatic taciturn character must be made explicable. That it is not defies the narrator’s complacently bourgeois worldview, which demands attribution, causal hermeneutics, simplicity, clarity. Bartleby gives this will-to-truth, which is also a will-to-power, no relief. What knowledge cannot know it must dismiss, pity or deligitimize as contemptible or a mere object of curiosity.

§ Bartleby: the exemplary American. He tries–and fails–to make a home for himself within the ever-mutating, ever-the-same precincts of capitalism and ends up being imprisoned by it.

§ “… standing in one of those deadwall reveries of his”: the reverie, long the ally of American self-invention, self-fashioning, can also be its undoing, especially when reverie becomes a substitute for doing. Bartleby is Benjamin Franklin’s nemesis, the presence of a horrific unproductivity in American culture that Franklin sought to annihilate or at least shame out of existence. The narrator (Benjamin Franklin’s alter ego in the story) initially feels pity for Bartleby, a pity that transmogrifies into repulsion. It is not only that Bartleby represents an entirely different principle of living; it is that he cannot be changed to be in alignment with the narrator’s complacent establishment values (“What I saw that morning persuaded me that the scrivener was the victim of an innate and incurable disorder.”) Hence Bartleby must be cast out.

§ The initial test of Bartleby’s excommunication will be whether he will divulge the particulars of his deliberately veiled history. If he refuses to do so, the narrator is determined to fine him. Significantly, he is not first asked to become more efficient. He is asked to reveal his soul, to become transparent before the gaze of his employer, to lose his identity as a separate, equal, and distinctive life, indeed to lose his private history. He is asked, in short, to become a case, an aggregate of facts, an object of narration, a known story, an employee instead of an individual. To the question, “Will you tell me anything about yourself?” Bartleby responds “I would prefer not to.”

§ Bartleby’s presence, his example, is a contagion that must be contained. Within the highly conventionalized world of employer-employee relations, preference cannot be allowed to have much more than a rhetorical significance. Preference speaks to individual will, which in Melville’s America, exists only ideologically, or at the level of enunciation. Individual will haunts America, its brick and mortar, its devil-deal with Wall Street, its boom times and its bust ones; it is dead, but its uneasy spirit is everywhere, a reminder of what has been lost, or perhaps what once was envisioned but never realized.

§ In the face of society’s “thou must,” Bartleby heroically maintains his own sense of will. He cannot be bribed to conform; he will not acknowledge the coercion of politeness, the ascendancy of manners. Yet he is not free. Obedience to social law and defiance of it are seen by Melville to be equally constraining. Defying social law defines Bartleby, almost absolutely. Wherever he turns there are walls. Bartleby is an individual who cannot free himself from his narrator, even from his author. Melvillean tragedy: narration itself as a form of subjection, unless the reader rewrites the story…

§ Self-interest, too, dictates the ultimate removal of Bartleby from the narrator’s law offices; the narrator decides he cannot afford generosity beyond the recognized border of conventional liberalism: the silent uncooperative presence of Bartleby has begun to affect his “professional reputation.” In a society actuated in the main by the profit motive, self-interest will always be the cardinal value; other pretenders exist, but none command the same degree of allegiance.

§ “What earthly right do you have to stay here? Do you pay any rent? Do you pay my taxes? Or is this property yours?” In nineteenth-century America, as now, rights are, in practice, guaranteed by money and property, not by “higher” ethical, legal, or constitutional principles. Melville’s postmortem on the body politic reveals not so much a divide between ethical and political life but a conquest of ethical principles by capitalist premises such that thinking beyond them requires an immense act of the imagination. By 1854, the “cash-payment nexus” had thoroughly colonized America; the only space outside it was the space of the imagination. The great achievement of capitalism is that it forces its dissidents and critics into exile, it forces us to inhabit the territory of the imagination, which it then delegitimizes as unreal, as mythical, a place of childish fantasy, a land of improbability. From whence will come the beast, slouching toward Bethlehem.

§ Horror–that Bartleby should dispossess his employer. He worries that “…in the end [he might] perhaps outlive me, and claim possession of my office by right of his perpetual occupancy.” Fear of dispossession leads to dispossession. Fear the devil! Possession, the devil! Legitimacy, the devil!

§ From valued employee to recalcitrant employee to enigma to apparition: by the end of the story Bartleby is made to metaphorse again: in a final incarnation he is seen to be an “intolerable incubus.” This is no exaggeration; he is an incubus. He haunts the living by his mere being. Merely being in a nonconformist fashion becomes an affront to bourgeois propriety, to professional decorum, to normativity itself. Bartleby becomes burdened with the socially unsaid in America, particularly the gap between our idealistic image of the American body politic and the harsher reality. Bartleby is–the worst sin of all–an embarrassment. He embarrasses the narrator’s notion of himself as a generous individual; he embarrasses society’s pretense to be a society in which action is grounded in principle. His mere presence mocks the American claim to have established a uniquely free polity.

§ “Bartleby” is about the magical power, the horrific power, of representation to transform lives. The narrator defines Bartleby’s life; his definition of Bartleby as an outsider, an “intolerable incubus,” becomes material, actual, in the body of Bartleby, wraithlike in prison, by the wall, awaiting death. In representing others as inhuman, supernatural, mythical, fantastic, they are metamorphosed into fiends, spirits, ghosts, devils, diseases, witches. Via this magic they can be annihilated, burned, slaughtered, converted, exorcised, chained, imprisoned, starved and mocked–made to gabble, made to flee, made to fly.

§ Once Bartleby’s employer deserts his law offices, he is finally able to separate himself from any sense of responsibility to Bartleby. But his departure does not signify a new disavowal of Bartleby, only the acting out of a disavowal that has already taken place. The disavowal merely becomes visible, public, as he makes clear to the new occupant of his former premises on Wall Street: “‘I am very sorry, sir,’ said I, with assured tranquillity, but an inward tremor, ‘”but really the man you allude to is nothing to me–he is no relation or apprentice of mine, that you should hold me responsible for him.'” What fear there is here:–fear of a social contract that would bind one individual to another, make one responsible to another, or merely genuinely responsive to another. Bartleby’s employer is desperate that he not be made “responsible for him.” He expresses a horror toward social responsibility. “Bartleby” is in this sense a dramatization of the American horror toward the notion of the social as the environment in which individual destiny receives completion. It ironizes–despairingly!–the narrator’s desire for the social to be replaced by an environment in which individuals pursue their ambitions limited only by the pressures of economic necessity, class, and a legal system firmly rooted in the prerogatives of wealth and property.

§ Within this vision, the social makes no demands on individuals vis-à-vis other ones, and should not. It is a space populated only by a single individual and his solipsistic ambitions. Yet the emptiness of this social space demands the most rigorous policing. It must not be filled up, certainly not by a vision of the social as fulfilling. The social is defined by Melville as the space of the prison yard, demarcated by “the surrounding walls, of amazing thickness.”

§ Ironically, in so privatizing the dream of the social as a source of support and enrichment, the social domain actually is reduced to becoming barren, coercive and exploitative. Melville’s irony: horror at the horror we have allowed the social to become.

§ “As I afterwards learned, the poor scrivener, when told that he must be conducted to the Tombs, offered not the slightest obstacle, but, in his pale, unmoving way, silently acquiesced.” The shameless of false pity, false piety! Bartleby acquiesces in the face of death. Pity is death too–in this sense, Bartleby’s removal to the Tombs is merely the actualization of the living death that he has already endured. Bartleby faces this fate without flinching. He acquiesces not only because he knows his end is inevitable, but because it is the ineluctable fulfillment of the social law, of social life. (To say that the social does not exist in “Bartleby” would be to simplify and to miss a finer irony. The social exists–but it exists in its purest form only negatively, punitively; it exists as a coercive power applied to those who violate the law of unfettered individualism or the law that sanctifies existence as a process of accumulation.)

§ Bartleby is imprisoned with other social discontents as a way punishing him for resisting the dictates of individualism. The strongest social taboo in Melville’s America is a taboo against thinking beyond the narrow confines of individualism. If you cannot live as an individual conforming to a liberal worldview, then you will die as something unrecognized: a true individual. Whether or not you want to conform then becomes a superannuated consideration.

§ In refusing to become an object of his employer’s gaze, Bartleby becomes an object of the gaze of murderers and thieves. His dissident behavior is lower than that of the lowest of criminals. How ironic that this most private of individuals should suffer the indignity of having his privacy stripped away, made an object of curiosity, a spectacle for the amusement of society’s outcasts (who only violated the letter, not the spirit of the law). Glassed in, he lives under the gaze of society’s condemned; his unrecorded sentence is to suffer the loss of privacy endlessly. Having defied the imperatives of materialistic individualism, he is made to endure a degraded and grotesque sociality. This is his “freedom.” And in giving him the run of the prison, society can be persuaded of its own generosity. “Being under no disgraceful charge, and quite serene and harmless in all his ways, they had permitted him freely to wander about the prison, and especially, in the inclosed grass-platted yards thereof. And so I found him there, standing all alone in the quietest of the yards, his face towards a high wall, while all around, from the narrow slits of the jail windows, I thought I saw peering out upon him the eyes of murderers and thieves.”

§ Bartleby is never charged with any crime; to charge him with one would be to face the unacknowledgeable, the brutality of the unwritten law of individualism. He is, indeed, “under no disgraceful charge.”

§ Bartleby’s face is “toward a high wall,” the wall of Necessity, the wall of repression, the wall of the law that condemns Bartleby. Bartleby can see it; he knows what it is. Likewise when saluted by his former employer who visits him in the Tombs, Bartleby replies “‘I know you,’ he said, without looking around–‘and I want nothing to say to you.'”

§ And the meretriciousness of his former employer’s response! “‘It was not I that brought you here, Bartleby,’ said I, keenly pained at his implied suspicion. ‘And to you, this should not be so vile a place. Nothing reproachful attaches to you by being here. And see, it is not so sad a place as one might think. Look, there is the sky, and here is the grass.'” The narrative voice smoothly defines reality. There is no presumption in this–for he belongs to that class that has defined reality. For those who do not have to live with the falseness of representation, hell can be a form of heaven.

§ But there is meretriciousness here, meretriciousness based on an invincible form of self-deceit. While the narrator did not technically remove Bartleby from his premises, his own behavior made that all but inevitable. The narrator will not face his complicity in bringing Bartleby to this end. He will not accept responsibility for it, or for his own actions; his is the voice of individualism: not thou but I! His rhetoric transforms himself into a martyr to Bartleby’s unwarranted and unjust suspicion; likewise, it makes a heaven of hell.

§ In the narrator’s last attempt to convert Bartleby to accept the world as it is, he encourages Bartleby to accept the “grub-man” in the Tombs as his servant. Bartleby rejects the role of master just as he rejected the role of servant.

§ His emaciated, wraith-like body symbolizes his lack of visibility, his social invisibility. Bartleby is out of bounds, beyond the narrator’s ability to recognize him. Why then eat? What is there to eat? Eating is a form of hopefulness. It expresses a hope about the future, or at least the belief that the future will be responsive to individual human desire. What is there to sustain Bartleby? His frail body records the cost of defying the social law, which enshrines mastery and slavery as society’s modus vivendi. He becomes–another–invisible man.

§ “‘Deranged? Deranged is it? Well, now, upon my word, I thought that friend of yourn was a gentleman forger; they are always pale and genteel-like, them forgers. I can’t help pity ’em–can’t help it, sir.'” This, the grub man to the narrator, about Bartleby at the story’s end. Forgers pass off fake documents as manufactured ones, as “authentic” originals. Forgers thus exist as the doppelganger to scriveners. Scriveners produce copies, but copies recognized as copies. Their copies do not destabilize this economy of authenticity; indeed they affirm it. Bartleby’s refusal to work is also a refusal to work as a scrivener, as a worker who supports this economy of authenticity. Has not the law forged itself? Has it not declared itself authentic–indeed the source of authentic behavior for the body politic? Doesn’t the law’s excessively punitive stance toward forgery betray its own anxiety about its own “authenticity,” its own insecurity about its status as the embodiment of transcendent truths about justice? Doesn’t Bartleby’s wasted body declare the inauthenticity of the law, and the inauthenticity of the lawyer-narrator who presumes to narrate Bartleby’s life?

§ “Dead letters! does it not sound like dead men? Conceive a man by nature and misfortune prone to a pallid hopelessness, can any business seem more fitted to heighten it than by continually handling these dead letters, and assorting them for the flames. For by the cart-load they are annually burned. Sometimes from out the folded paper the pale clerk takes a ring–the finger it was meant for, perhaps, moulders in the grave; a bank note sent in swiftest charity–he whom it would relieve, nor eats nor hungers any more; pardon for those who died despairing; hope for those who died unhoping; good tidings for those who died stifled by unrelieved calamities. On errands of life, these letters speed to death. Ah, Bartleby! Ah, humanity!”

§ The fact that the narrator–the agent of Bartleby’s destruction–is also his elegist is a sign of the text’s veiled outlook: he signifies either the first shoots of change, or the final cruelty of the dream of a New Jerusalem in the New World.

§ “Bartleby the Scrivener” is composed of dead letters: the dead letter of the law; the dead letters of a constitutional democracy; the death of individualism; the death of narrative’s power to transform social failure; the death of authenticity and benevolence; the death of humanity. Just as dead letters are letters sent too late to those who were despairing, and now are dead, so too “Bartleby” is a dead letter sent to a reading public, which by accepting, indeed internalizing, compromised versions of freedom and community, is also dead.

§ But the letter itself, like the letters Bartleby consigned to the flames, is also charged with redemptive energy, with the desire to redeem loss and failure. The irony is ineluctable: redemption for those who are beyond it. The imperative is to look at the death-face of the American body politic face on, to see it in all of its ghastly pallor. Seeing–recognition–is the necessary prerequisite for social transformation. Melville’s text is haunted by loss, by almost-extinguished hopes. Hauntings terrorize, but they may also be quests for redemption. Just as it awaits a general resurrection of all dead letters, Melville’s text awaits, still, its audience.

All references to “Bartleby the Scrivener” are from Herman Melville’s Billy Budd and Other Stories, edited and introduced by Frederick Busch (New York: Penguin Classics, 1986).


Jon Thompson teaches at North Carolina State University where he edits the online journal Free Verse: A Journal of Contemporary Poetry & Poetics and the new poetry series, Free Verse Editions. His first collection, The Book of the Floating World, has just been reissued in an expanded edition. Thompson’s essay on “Bartleby” is part of a book-length manuscript entitled After Paradise: Essays on the Fate of American Writing.

Good intentions; unintended consequences

February 27, 2008

N Y Times, February 26, 2008

Transplant Surgeon Charged in Patient’s Death

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — On a winter night in 2006, a disabled and brain damaged man named Ruben Navarro was wheeled into an operating room at a hospital here. By most accounts, Mr. Navarro, 25, was very near death, and doctors hoped that he might sustain other lives by donating his kidneys and liver.

But what happened to Mr. Navarro quickly went from the potentially life-saving to what law enforcement officials say was criminal. In what is believed to be the first such case in the country, prosecutors have charged the transplant surgeon, Dr. Hootan C. Roozrokh, with trying to hasten Mr. Navarro’s death to retrieve his organs sooner.

A preliminary hearing begins here on Wednesday, with Dr. Roozrokh facing three felony counts relating to Mr. Navarro’s treatment as a donor. At the heart of the case is the question of whether Dr. Roozrokh, who studied at a transplant fellowship program at the prestigiousStanford University School of Medicine, was pursuing organs at any cost or had become entangled in a web of misunderstanding about a lesser-used harvesting technique known as “donation after cardiac death.”

Dr. Roozrokh has pleaded not guilty, and his lawyer said the charges were the result of overzealous prosecutors. But the case has already sent a shudder through the tight-knit field of transplant surgeons, because if convicted on all counts, Dr. Roozrokh could face eight years in prison. The case is also worrying donation advocacy groups that organ donors could be frightened away.

“If you think a malpractice lawsuit is scaring surgeons off,” said Dr. Goran Klintmalm, the president of the American Society of Transplant Surgeons, “wait to see what happens when people see a surgeon being charged criminally and going to jail.”

David Fleming, the executive director of Donate Life America, a nonprofit group that promotes donations, said the case had “given some support to the myths and misperceptions we spend an inordinate amount of time telling people won’t happen.”

Mr. Fleming said about 18 people a day die in the United States waiting for transplants. That has created a tremendous demand for donor organs and over the years the medical community has established strict protocols to govern organ harvesting.

Cardiac-death donations began to go out of vogue in the late 1960s and early 1970s after medical advances like life support and subsequent changes in the legal definition of death made brain-death donations more appealing. But the procedure has been encouraged by health officials in recent years.

There were a decade-high 670 cardiac-death donations through the first nine months of 2007, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, which oversees organ allocation. In all, there were 13,223 organ donations over the same period, the vast majority with brain-dead donors

In brain-death donations, the donor is legally dead, but the organs are kept viable by machines.

In cardiac-death procedures, after the patient’s respirator is removed, the heart slows. Once the heart stops, the brain function ceases. Most donor protocols also call for a five-minute delay before the patient is declared dead. Transplant teams are not allowed in the room of the potential donor before that.

Cardiac-death donations can make some doctors and nurses skittish if they have not previously witnessed one, said Dr. Robert Sade, the former chairman of the American Medical Association’s Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs.

“It all works exactly the same, the cuts and the procedure,” Dr. Sade said. “But the circumstances are quite different.”

Several days after Mr. Navarro was hospitalized at the Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center here, a decision was made to remove his respirator. According to the criminal complaint, Dr. Roozrokh ordered excessive doses of morphine and Ativan, an anti-anxiety medicine, both of which are commonly used as comfort medicines for dying patients. He also ordered the introduction of Betadine, an antiseptic usually used after death to clean organs for transplantation, the criminal complaint says.

Mr. Navarro died about eight hours later of what the coroner would later rule as natural causes. In the end, because the death was not more immediate, his organs had deteriorated so much that they were unusable for a transplant.

Prosecutors have charged Dr. Roozrokh with felony counts of dependent adult abuse, mingling a harmful substance and unlawful controlled substance prescription. The doctor’s lawyer, M. Gerald Schwartzbach, said Dr. Roozrokh, a 34-year-old Iranian émigré and academic All-American swimmer who grew up in Wisconsin, did “nothing that adversely affected the quality or length” of Mr. Navarro’s life.

“Dr. Roozrokh is a brilliant young surgeon, who has dedicated his life to saving lives,” Mr. Schwartzbach said. Neither the police nor prosecutors would comment on the case.

Mr. Navarro was diagnosed with adrenal leukodystrophy, or A.D.L., a debilitating nerve disease, when he was 9. “He would walk like he was drunk,” said his mother, Rosa, a Guatemalan immigrant. “And when he would play, he would fall like Bambi.”

By his early 20s, however, Mr. Navarro’s mental and physical condition had deteriorated to a point where he was placed in an assisted-care facility.

On Jan. 29, 2006, Ms. Navarro received a call from the facility that her son had been found unconscious, in cardiac and respiratory arrest, but that he had been revived and transported to Sierra Vista. His brain had been damaged from lack of oxygen.

Several days later, with no sign of improvement, Ms. Navarro says she was told by a doctor at the hospital, whose name she did not know, that her son would never recover and that he would be disconnected from life support.

Ms. Navarro, a disabled machinist from Oxnard, Calif., said she did not have enough money to stay another night near her son. She said that

shortly after leaving the hospital, she received a call from the California Transplant Donor Network, a nonprofit organ procurement organization. On a tape recording made by the transplant network, Ms. Navarro agreed to donate her son’s organs, saying she did not want her “boy to suffer too long.”

Late on Feb. 3, a transplant team including Dr. Roozrokh arrived at the hospital. .

According to a police interview with Jennifer Endsley, a nurse, Dr. Roozrokh stayed in the room during the removal of the respirator and gave orders for medication, something that would violate donation protocol. Ms. Endsley, who stayed to watch because she had never seen the procedure, also told the police that Dr. Roozrokh also asked an emergency room nurse to find and administer more “candy” — meaning drugs — after Mr. Navarro did not die after the removal of his respirator.

Mr. Schwartzbach, the lawyer for Dr. Roozrokh, said he would address the allegations in court. “I think a great many people, — lay and medical, — will realize they have been significantly misinformed,” he said.

Several months after the incident, , federal health officials cited the hospital for a series of lapses, including allowing a person without clinical privileges, Dr. Roozrokh, to prescribe controlled substances. Last February, the United Network for Organ Sharing reprimanded the California Transplant Donor Network, for breaking “established protocol” in the case. The donor network declined to comment.

Ms. Navarro has filed a civil suit against Dr. Roozrokh, the donor network and other doctors in the operating room and has settled a lawsuit against the hospital. A spokesman for the hospital, Ron Yukelson, said it was correcting the problems raised by the case.

Ms. Navarro said she remained angry about the way her son’s life ended.

“He didn’t deserve to be like that, to go that way,” she said. “He died without dignity and sympathy and without respect.”

Melanie Carroll contributed reporting from San Luis Obispo.

If the races had been reversed; i.e. white home owner & carloads of black teenagers, do you have any doubt that the charge would have been dismissed?

February 27, 2008



Race, memory, and a killing in the suburbs.

by Calvin TrillinMARCH 3, 2008

John White’s trial made two fathers the focus of Suffolk County’s racial divide.

John White’s trial made two fathers the focus of Suffolk County’s racial divide.

hat happened at the foot of the driveway at 40 Independence Way that hot August night in 2006 took less than three minutes. The police later managed to time it precisely, using a surveillance camera that points directly at the street from a house a couple of doors to the north. The readout on the surveillance tape said that it was 23:06:11 when two cars whizzed by going south, toward the cul-de-sac at the end of the street. At 23:09:06, the first car passed back in front of the camera, going north. A minute later, a second car passed in the same direction. In the back seat of that second car—a black Mustang Cobra convertible—was a seventeen-year-old boy named Daniel Cicciaro, Jr., known to his friends as Dano. He was unconscious and bleeding profusely. He had been shot through the cheek. A .32-calibre bullet was lodged in his head.

Normally, at that time of night, not many cars are seen on Independence Way, a quiet street in a town called Miller Place. Just east of Port Jefferson, on the North Shore of Long Island, Miller Place is in the part of Suffolk County where the commuters have begun to thin out. To the east is a large swatch of the county that doesn’t seem strongly connected to the huge city in one direction or to the high-priced summer resorts and North Fork wineries in the other. The house at 40 Independence Way is part of a development, Talmadge Woods, that five or six years ago was a peach orchard; it’s now a collection of substantial two-story, four-bedroom houses that the developer started offering in 2003 for about half a million dollars each. The houses vary in design, but they all have an arched front door topped by the arched glass transom known in the trade as a Palladian window—a way to bring light into the double-height entry hall. When people are asked to describe the neighborhood, they tend to say “upper middle class.” The homeowner with the surveillance system is an orthodontist.

Miller Place could also be described as overwhelmingly white. According to a study released a few years ago, Long Island is the single most segregated suburban area in the United States. The residents of 40 Independence Way—John and Sonia White and their youngest son, Aaron—are African-American and so are their next-door neighbors, but the black population of Miller Place is less than one-half of one per cent. The Whites, who began married life in Brooklyn in the early seventies, had moved to Miller Place after ten years in North Babylon, which is forty minutes or so closer to the city. “You want to raise your family in a safe environment,” John White, a tall, very thin man in his early fifties, has said, explaining why he was willing to spend three hours a day in his car commuting. “The educational standards are higher. You want to live a comfortable life, which is the American dream.” One of the Whites’ sons is married, with children of his own, and a second is in college in the South. But Aaron was able to spend his senior year at Miller Place High School, which takes pride in such statistics as how many of its students are in Advanced Placement history courses. Aaron, an erect young man who is likely to say “sir” when addressing one of his elders, graduated in June of 2005. He was one of four black students in the class.

In an area where home maintenance is a priority, 40 Independence Way could hold its own. John White is a serious gardener—a nurturer of daylilies and clematis, a planter of peel-bark birch trees—and someone who had always been proud, maybe even touchy, about his property. People who have been neighbors of the Whites tend to use the word “meticulous” in describing John White; so do people who have worked with him. He has described himself as “a doer”—someone too restless to sit around reading a book or watching television. He says that he’s fished from Nova Scotia to the Bahamas. He’s done a lot of hunting—a pastime he was taught by his grandfather Napoleon White, whose family’s migration from Alabama apparently took place after a murderous attack by the Ku Klux Klan. At the Faith Baptist Church, in Coram, Long Island, John White sang in both the men’s choir and the mixed Celebration Choir. A couple of polished-wood tables in the Whites’ house were made by him. He’s a broadly accomplished man, and proud of it. His wife, who was born in Panama, works as a manager in a department store and has that Caribbean accent which, maybe because it’s close to the accent of West Indian nurses, conveys both competence and the firm intention to brook no nonsense. The Whites’ furniture tastes lean toward Stickley, Audi. Their sons dress in a style that’s preppy. Sitting in his well-appointed family room, John White could be taken for middle management.

But he doesn’t have the sort of education or occupation that would seem to go along with the house he lives in. After graduating from a technical program at Samuel Gompers High School, he worked as an electrician for seven or eight years and then, during a slow time for electricians, he began working in the paving industry. For the past twenty-five years, he has worked for an asphalt company in Queens, patching the potholes left by utility repair crews. He is often described as a foreman, which he once was, but he says that, partly because of an aversion to paperwork, he didn’t try to reclaim that job after it evaporated during a reduction in the workforce. (“I’m actually a laborer.”) On August 9, 2006, a Wednesday, he had, as usual, awakened at three-thirty in the morning for the drive to Queens, spent the day at work, and, after a stop to pick up some bargain peony plants, returned to what he calls his “dream house” or his “castle.” He retired early, so that he could do the same thing the next day. A couple of hours later, according to his testimony, he was awakened by Aaron, who, with a level of terror John White had never heard in his son’s voice, shouted, “Dad, these guys are coming here to kill me!” Instead, as it turned out, John White killed Daniel Cicciaro, Jr.

here had been a birthday party that evening for Craig Martin, Jr., a recent Miller Place High School graduate. Craig lives with his parents and his younger sister, Jennifer, in Sound Beach—a town just to the east that grew into a year-round neighborhood from what had begun as beach lots purchased in the twenties as part of a Daily Mirrorcirculation-promotion scheme. The party was mostly in the Martins’ back yard, where there was an aboveground pool, a lot of cold beer, and a succession of beer-pong games. This was not the A.P.-history crowd. Craig was connected to a number of the boys at the party through an interest in cars. Some of them were members of the Blackout car club, a loose organization of teen-agers who, in good weather, gather in the parking lot of the Stop & Shop mall in Miller Place on Thursday nights for an informal car show—displaying cars whose lights and windows are likely to have been tinted in pursuit of sleekness. Dano Cicciaro (pronounced Danno Cicero) was a regular at Stop & Shop, driving a white Mustang Mach 1 with two black stripes. Dano had grown up in Selden, a blue-collar town to the south, and finished at Newfield High School there after his family moved in his senior year to one of a half-dozen houses clustered around a cul-de-sac called Old Town Estates, in Port Jefferson Station.

His father, Daniel Cicciaro, Sr., runs an automobile-repair shop in Port Jeff Station called Dano’s Auto Clinic—a two-bay operation that also has some used cars parked in its lot, their prices marked on the windshields. Dano’s Auto Clinic is where Dano, Jr., spent a lot of his spare time. As a boy, he had the usual range of interests, his father has recalled, but “as he turned into a teen-ager it was all cars.” Even as a teen-ager, he ran a car-detailing business out of the shop, and he’d planned to keep that up when he started at Suffolk County Community College in the fall. Dano, Jr.,’s long-term plan was to take over Dano’s Auto Clinic someday and expand its services. “He did exactly as I did, in that he set goals for himself and conquered them, never sitting idle,” a Newsday reporter was told by Daniel Cicciaro, Sr., a father who’d felt the validation of having a son who was eager to follow his calling and work by his side.

Aaron White, who had finished his first year at Suffolk County Community College, was having dinner that evening in Port Jefferson with Michael Longo, his best friend from Miller Place High School. From having attended a few of the Stop & Shop gatherings, Aaron knew some of the car crowd, and, while phoning around for something to do, he learned about the birthday party at the Martins’. Craig greeted Aaron cheerfully enough, but a few minutes later Jennifer, who was then fifteen, told her brother that, because of a past incident, she felt frightened in Aaron’s presence. Dano Cicciaro was assigned to ask Aaron to leave. It isn’t clear why he was given that task. It couldn’t have been his size: Dano was five feet four and weighed a hundred and twenty-nine pounds. It certainly wasn’t his sobriety. Dano was drunk. When his blood-alcohol content was checked later at the hospital, it was almost twice the level required to prove intoxication. Still, Dano, who thought of himself as a protective older brother to Jennifer, handled the situation smoothly, saying to Aaron something like “It’s nothing personal, but you’ll have to leave.” Aaron later said that he was puzzled (“I never get kicked out of parties”), but he got into his car and drove back to Miller Place.

When Dano learned exactly why Jennifer felt uncomfortable around Aaron, she later testified, “he freaked out.” While in an Internet chat room with a couple of other boys, Jennifer told Dano, Aaron had posted a message saying that he wanted to rape her. Obtaining Aaron’s cell-phone number from Michael Longo, Dano touched off what became a series of heated calls involving several people at the party. Dano wanted to confront Aaron immediately. It didn’t matter that Aaron denied having posted the message. It didn’t matter that the posting had taken place nine months before and that Jennifer’s real older brother, Craig, had actually forgotten about it. In court many months later, Jennifer Martin was asked if she’d eventually learned that the offending message had not, in fact, been sent by Aaron—it had grown out of something said on a MySpace account set up in Aaron’s name as a prank—and she answered in the affirmative. That didn’t matter, either, because by then it was much too late. On the evening of August 9th, when Jennifer told Dano about the rape posting, there were other elements involved. A lot of beer had been consumed. It was late in the evening, a time when the teen-age penchant for melodrama tends to be in full flower. Dano was filled with what Paul Gianelli, one of John White’s defense attorneys, called “a warped sense of chivalry” and Dano’s godfather, Gregg Sarra, preferred to characterize as “valor, protecting a woman, honor.” For whatever reason, Dano Cicciaro and four of his friends were soon heading toward the Whites’ house in two beautifully painted and carefully polished cars that passed the orthodontist’s surveillance camera when its readout said 23:06:11.

What happened when they got there remains a matter of sharp dispute. There is no doubt that the boys were displaying no weapons when they got out of their cars, although one of them, Joseph Serrano, had brought along a baseball bat that remained in the back seat of the Mustang. There is no doubt that John White emerged from his garage carrying a pre-Second World War Beretta pistol that he kept there—part of an inheritance from his grandfather that had also included, White later said, “rifles and shotguns and a lot of advice.” Aaron was a few steps behind him, carrying a 20-gauge shotgun. There is no doubt that Dano “slapped” or “whacked” or “grabbed” the Beretta. There is no doubt that, before the shot was fired, there had been shouting and foul language from both sides. The tenor of the conversation, the defense team eventually maintained, could be surmised from the tape of a 911 line that the boys did not realize was open as they rushed their friend to a Port Jefferson hospital in the black Mustang Cobra. The 911 operator can be heard saying, “Sir . . . hello . . . hello . . . sir, pick up the phone.” The boys, their muffled voices almost hysterical, can be heard shouting directions to one another and giving assurances that Dano is still breathing. The operator keeps saying, “Hello . . . sir.” Then the voice of Joseph Serrano, sitting in the back seat with his bleeding friend and his baseball bat, comes through clearly: “Fucking niggers! Dano, I’ll get ’em for you, Dano.”

Back at 40 Independence Way, John White and his son were sitting in front of their house, hugging. Sonia White was screaming, “What happened? What happened?” In the trial testimony and police reports and newspaper accounts and grand-jury minutes dealing with what occurred in the meticulous front yard of 40 Independence Way after the cars had sped away, three statements attributed to John White stand out. One was in the testimony of Officer David Murray, the first Suffolk County policeman to reach the scene, who said that John White approached him with his arms extended, saying, “I did what I had to do. You might as well put the cuffs on me.” Another is what Officer Murray said he heard John White say to his son: “I told you those friends of yours would turn on you.” The third is what Sonia White testified that her husband said to her as he walked back into their castle: “We lost the house. We lost it all.”

week after the death of Daniel Cicciaro, Jr., several hundred people turned out for his funeral, held at St. Sylvester’s Roman Catholic Church, in Medford, Long Island. The gathering was heavy with symbolism. Some of the younger mourners displayed “Dano Jr.” tattoos. Dano, Jr.,’s main car was there—the white Mustang that was familiar from Stop & Shop and had won Best Mach 1 Mustang in a competition at McCarville Ford. Gregg Sarra, a boyhood friend of Daniel Cicciaro, Sr., and a local-sports columnist for Newsday, gave the eulogy, praising his godson’s loyalty and his diligence and his gift for friendship. After the burial, some of Dano, Jr.,’s car-club friends revved their engines and chanted, “Dan-o, Dan-o, Dan-o.” As a tribute to his son, Daniel Cicciaro, Sr., attended the service in a Dano’s Auto Clinic tank top. The Stop & Shop car show that Thursday, according to a Newsday piece, turned into a sort of vigil for Dano, Jr., with Jennifer Martin helping to light a ring of candles—red and white candles, for the colors of Newfield High—around his Mustang and his first car, a Mercedes E55 AMG.

The sadness was accompanied by a good deal of anger. John White found that understandable. “I know how I would feel if someone hurt my kid,” he said in a Times interview some weeks later. “There wouldn’t be a rock left to crawl under.” Speaking to one reporter, Daniel Cicciaro, Sr., had referred to White as an “animal.” For a while after the shooting, Michael Longo—the friend who had accompanied Aaron White to the birthday party and had, as it turned out, telephoned to warn him that there were plans to jump him if he returned—slept with a baseball bat next to his bed. Sonia White later testified that after some particularly menacing instant messages (“i need ur adreass you dumb nigger”), to which Aaron replied in what sounded like a suburban teenager’s notion of gangster talk (“u da bitch tlaking big n bad like u gonna come down to my crib n do sumthin”), the Whites decided that he was no longer safe in the house, and they sent him to live outside the area.

The mourners who talked to reporters after the service rejected the notion, brought up by a lawyer for the White family shortly after the shooting, that Dano Cicciaro and his friends had used racial epithets during the argument in front of 40 Independence Way. Daniel Cicciaro, Sr.—a short man with a shaved head and a Fu Manchu mustache and an assertive manner and a lifelong involvement in martial arts—had called any connection of his son with racism “absurd.” But by the time a grand jury met, a month or so after the shooting, even the prosecutor, who would presumably need the boys as witnesses against John White, was saying that racial epithets had indeed been used. The district attorney said, though, that if John White had simply remained in his house and dialled 911, he wouldn’t be in any trouble and Daniel Cicciaro, Jr., would still be alive. The grand jury was asked to indict White for murder. Grand juries ordinarily go along with district attorneys, but this one didn’t. When the trial finally began, in Riverhead, fifteen months after the shooting, the charge was second-degree manslaughter.

The grand-jury decision may have reflected public opinion in Suffolk County, where there are strong feelings about a homeowner’s right to protect his property and his family. Suffolk County is a place where a good number of residents are active or retired law-enforcement officers, and where even a lot of residents who aren’t own guns—a place where it is not surprising to come across a plaque that bears the picture of a pistol and the phrase “We Don’t Dial 911.” James Chalifoux, the assistant district attorney who was assigned to try the case against John White, apparently had that in mind when, during jury selection, he asked jurors if they would be able to distinguish between what might be considered morally right—what could cause you to say, “I might have done the same thing”—and what was permissible under the law. He asked jurors if they could put aside sympathy when they were considering the case—meaning sympathy for John White. Judging by comments posted online in response to Newsday articles, public opinion seemed muddled by the conflict between two underpinnings of life in Suffolk County—a devotion to the sanctity of private property, particularly one’s home, and an assumption that the owner of the property is white.

Dano’s mother—Joanne Cicciaro, a primary-school E.S.L. teacher who had grown up in Suffolk County—said she was extremely disappointed that the grand jury had declined to indict John White for murder. Daniel Cicciaro, Sr., told a reporter, “Here this man points his gun at the boys and says, ‘I’m going to shoot.’ He says it three times. Then he shoots my son. To me, that’s intentional murder.” On the other hand, some of White’s strongest supporters—people like Lucius Ware, the president of the Eastern Long Island branch of the N.A.A.C.P., and Marie Michel, a black attorney who joined the defense team—believed that if a white homeowner in Miller Place had been confronted late at night by five hostile black teen-agers there would have been, in Marie Michel’s words, “no arrests, no indictment, and no trial.” The homeowner would have been judged to have had “a well-founded fear,” they thought, and if the justice system dealt with the incident in any way it would have been to charge the boys with something like breach of the peace or aggravated harassment (“What were they doing in that neighborhood at that time of night?”). For that matter, these supporters would argue, would Dano have “freaked out” if the male accused of wanting to rape Jenny Martin hadn’t been black? Wouldn’t teen-agers spoiling for a fight have dispersed if a white father walked out of the house, with or without a gun, and told them in no uncertain terms to go home? In other words, before a word of testimony had been heard, some people attending the trial of John White believed that in a just world he would have been on trial for murder instead of only manslaughter, and some believed that in a just world he wouldn’t have been on trial at all.

he Arthur M. Cromarty Court Complex is set apart from Riverhead, the seat of Suffolk County, on a campus that seems to be mostly parking lots—a judicial version of Long Island shopping malls. Those who were there to attend John White’s trial, which began just after Thanksgiving, seemed to be roughly separated by race, on opposite sides of the aisle that ran down the center of the courtroom’s spectator section. That may have been partly because the room was small and on many days the prosecution’s supporters, mostly Cicciaro relatives and young friends of Dano’s, nearly filled half of it. Dano, Jr.,’s parents did not sit next to each other—they had separated before their son’s death—but they came together as a family in hallway huddles of supporters and in speaking to the press. The people who stood out on their side of the courtroom were a couple of friends of Daniel Cicciaro, Sr., who also had shaved heads, but with modifications that included a scalp tattoo saying “Dano Jr.” Although they looked menacing, both of them could be described as designers: one is a detailer, specializing in the fancy painting of motorcycles; the other does graphic design, specializing in sports uniforms.

People on the Cicciaro side might have felt some menace emanating from the phalanx of black men, all of them in suits and ties and many of them offensive-tackle size, who escorted Aaron White (wearing a bulletproof vest) through the courthouse on the first day of his testimony and then took seats across the aisle, near some women from John White’s church choir. The escorts were from an organization called 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care. On that first day, their ranks were augmented by members of the Fruit of Islam, wearing their trademark bow ties, although the black leader called to mind by John White’s life would probably be Booker T. Washington rather than Louis Farrakhan. As it turned out, there was no overt hostility between those on either side of the courtroom aisle, and, at the end of testimony, the Cicciaros made it clear that they would accept any decision the jury brought in—none of which, Joanne Cicciaro pointed out, would bring their son back. Talking to a Newsday reporter after the trial about prejudice, Daniel Cicciaro, Sr., maintained that bias existed toward what some people called skinheads. “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” he said.

The four boys who accompanied Dano Cicciaro to Aaron White’s house that night are all car enthusiasts who now hold jobs that echo their high-school hobby. Alex Delgado does maintenance on race cars. Joseph Serrano is a motorcycle mechanic. Tom Maloney, who drove the Mustang Cobra, sells Volkswagens. Anthony Simeone works for his father’s auto-salvage business. Among those who testified that they’d tried to prevent Dano from going to the Whites’ house were Alex Delgado, who drove him there, and Joseph Serrano, who brought along a baseball bat. (“He’s stubborn,” Anthony Simeone had explained to the grand jury. “When he wants to do something, he wants to do it.”) Although there had been testimony that Dano Cicciaro used the word “nigger” once or twice in the cell-phone exchange with Aaron White, his friends denied using racial slurs at 40 Independence Way. (With the jury out of the courtroom, Paul Gianelli brought up an incident that had been investigated by the police but not included in the notes and reports that they are required to turn over to the defense: according to two or three witnesses, Daniel Cicciaro had gone to Sayville Ford with a complaint a few weeks before he was shot and, when approached by a black salesman, had said, “I don’t talk to niggers.” The judge wouldn’t admit that into evidence, but the headline of the next day’s Newsday story was “ATTORNEY: COPS HID MILLER PLACE VICTIM’S RACISM.”) The friends who’d gone with Dano, Jr., to the Whites’ house that night testified that after John White’s gun was slapped away, he raised it again and shot Dano in the face. As they described how Dano Cicciaro fell and how he’d been lifted from the street by Tom Maloney and rushed to the hospital, there were occasional sobs from both Joanne and Daniel Cicciaro.

Dano’s friends had said that both of their cars were in the street facing north, but the Whites testified that one was in their driveway, with the lights shining up into the house—a contention that the defense bolstered by analyzing the headlight reflections on the orthodontist’s mailbox in the surveillance tape. The boys testified that they’d never set foot on the Whites’ property—that contention was bolstered by pictures showing Dano’s blood and his cell phone in the street rather than in the driveway—but the Whites claimed that the boys had been advancing toward the house. “They came to my home as if they owned it,” Sonia White said on the stand. “What gall!”

John White testified that, believing the young men had come to harm his family, he backed them off his property with Napoleon White’s old pistol. In the frenzy that followed his abrupt awakening, he said, he had yelled, “Call the cops!” to his wife as he raced into the garage, but she hadn’t heard him. He described Dano Cicciaro and his friends as a lynch mob shouting, among other things, “We could take that skinny nigger motherfucker.” Recalling that evening, White said, “In my family history, that’s how the Klan comes. They pull up to your house, blind you with their lights, burn your house down. That’s how they come.” In White’s telling, the confrontation had seemed over and he was turning to go back into the house when Dano Cicciaro grabbed the gun, causing it to fire. “I didn’t mean to shoot this young man,” John White said. “This young man was another child of God.” This time, it was John White who broke down, and the court had to take a recess. One of the jurors was also wiping away tears.

o convict someone of second-degree manslaughter in the state of New York, the prosecution has to prove that he recklessly caused the death of the victim—“recklessly” being defined as creating a risk so substantial that disregarding it constitutes “a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe”—and that he had no justification. In its decision in the case of Bernard Goetz, the white man who in 1984 shot four young black men who had approached him on the subway demanding money, the New York Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state, ruled that justification could have a subjective as well as an objective component—fears raised by the defendant’s past experiences, for instance. By bringing up the history that White’s family had with the Klan, the defense team raised a subjective component of justification, along with the objective component of home protection. “We are all products of our past,” Paul Gianelli said of his client during one of the breaks in the trial. “He brought to that particular evening who he is.” The defense was making a case for, among other things, the power of race memory.

The racial divide is obviously less overt in John White’s Long Island than it was in Napoleon White’s Alabama. Tom Maloney, who’d also graduated from Miller Place High School, had apparently thought of Aaron White as a friend. Alex Delgado, who drove Dano Cicciaro to Aaron’s house on August 9th, had been there before as a guest. In John White’s testimony, Delgado was described as Hispanic. Joanne Cicciaro, who by name and appearance and accent might be assumed to have come from one of the many Italian-American families that moved to Suffolk County in recent decades from the boroughs, is actually Puerto Rican—a fact brought up to reporters by the Cicciaros in countering any implications of racism in Dano’s upbringing. (“Our family is multicultural.”) Even without those complications, the case for race memory would be harder to make to white people than to black people. White people are likely to say that times have changed: these days, after all, a real-estate agent who tried to steer John White away from buying a house in an overwhelmingly white Long Island neighborhood would be risking her license.

If times have changed, black people might ask in response, how come Long Island is still so segregated? In his summation, the prosecutor asked a series of questions as a way to illustrate how White’s behavior had deviated from the behavior of a reasonable person. Two of the huge black men who had been part of Aaron White’s escort were sitting in the courtroom at the time, and when the D.A. asked whether a reasonable person would really be guided partly by the memory of a Ku Klux Klan attack that happened years before he was born, they both began to nod their heads.

In that closing statement, James Chalifoux said that it wasn’t until the trial began that John White started talking about a lynch mob. (It’s true that in a newspaper interview in September of 2006 White seemed to downplay race, but it’s also true that in his grand-jury testimony, less than a month after the shooting, he spoke about a “lynch mob.”) Race, Chalifoux said, was being used to distract the jurors from the simple fact that by walking down the driveway with a loaded pistol John White, a man intimately familiar with firearms, had engaged in conduct that had recklessly caused the death of Dano Cicciaro. Matching up testimony with cell-phone logs, Chalifoux argued that the Whites had more time before the arrival of the cars than their story of a panicky few minutes implied. Chalifoux acknowledged that Dano and his friends were wrong to go to the Whites’ that night, that Dano was wrong to use a racial epithet when he phoned Aaron White, and that John White had found himself “in a very bad situation that night and a situation that was not his fault.” But how White responded to that situation, Chalifoux said, was his fault.

Chalifoux’s summation followed that of Frederick K. Brewington, a black attorney, active in black causes on Long Island, who was Paul Gianelli’s co-counsel. “Race has so much to do with this case, ladies and gentlemen, that it’s painful,” Brewington told the jury: Dano Cicciaro and his friends thought they had a right to go to John White’s house and “terrorize his family with impunity and arrogance” because of “the false racial privilege they felt empowered by.” In Brewington’s argument, John White thought, “ ‘Once they see I have a gun they’ll back off’ . . . but they did not take ‘the skinny old nigger’ seriously.” While Chalifoux presented Joseph Serrano’s slur on the 911 tape as, however deplorable, an indication that the argument at the foot of the driveway didn’t include the barrage of insults that the Whites had testified to—if it had, he said, “you would have heard racial epithet after racial epithet after racial epithet”—Brewington saw it as a mirror of the boys’ true feelings. “What we do under cover of darkness sometimes comes to light,” he said.

Shortly after the beginning of deliberations, ten jurors, including the sole African-American, were prepared to convict John White of having recklessly caused Dano Cicciaro’s death. Two jurors resisted that verdict for four days. Then they capitulated. They later told reporters that they felt bullied and pressured by jurors who were impatient to be liberated as Christmas approached. In a courtroom crowded with court officers, the jury reported that it had found John White guilty of manslaughter and a weapons charge. The Cicciaros and their supporters were ecstatic. Dano’s parents seemed to take John White’s conviction principally as proof that the accusations of racism against their son had been shown to be false. “My son is finally vindicated,” a tearful Joanne Cicciaro said, outside the courtroom. Daniel Cicciaro, Sr., said, “Maybe now they’ll stop slinging my son’s name and accusing him of all this racism.” Outside the courthouse, friends of Dano, Jr., honked their horns and revved their engines and chanted, “Dan-o, Dan-o, Dan-o.” The next day, Sunday, the celebration continued with a sort of open house at Dano’s Auto Clinic, which bore a sign saying “Thank You Jurors. Thank God. Dano Jr. Rest in Peace.” In Miller Place, John White briefly spoke to the reporters who were waiting in front of his house. “I’m not inhuman,” he said. “I have very deep feelings for this young man.” But before that he went to the Faith Baptist Church, in Coram, and sang in the choir.

hn White is a hero,” Frederick Brewington said two weeks later, addressing a crowd of several hundred people, almost all of them black, who had gathered on a cold Saturday afternoon in front of the criminal-court building in Riverhead. He repeated, “John White is a hero.” The guilty verdict had made White the sort of hero all too familiar in the race memory of African-Americans—someone held up as an example of the unjustly treated black man. On the podium were black officeholders, speakers from the spectrum of black organizations on Long Island, and two people who had come from Manhattan—Kevin Muhammad, of Muhammad Mosque No. 7, and Al Sharpton. A lot of N.A.A.C.P. people were in the audience, and so were a lot of people from Faith Baptist Church. Various speakers demanded a retrial, or called for the resignation of the district attorney, or pointed out the difference in how white homeowners in similar situations have been treated, or called for the young white men involved to be indicted. (“We will raise this to a level of national attention until these young men are brought to justice,” Sharpton said.) There were chants like “No Justice—No Peace” and, loudest of all, “Free John White.”

That chant was not meant literally. For the time being, John White is free—he addressed the rally briefly, mainly to thank his supporters—and his attorneys hope that, while an appeal is pending, he will be allowed to remain free after his sentencing, scheduled for March 19th. (“I think he should get as much time as possible,” a Post reporter was told by Jennifer Martin, whose response to Aaron White’s arrival at her house set the events of August 9th in motion. “I really do.”) Until the sentencing, White is back to rising at three-thirty every morning to go into the city and patch utility holes. Everything he was quoted as saying in the aftermath of the shooting that night turned out to be true. The fatalism reflected in his statement to Officer Murray as he held out his hands to be cuffed was well founded. Aaron White accepted the fact that those friends of his had indeed turned on him. In his testimony, he said, “They have no respect for me or my family or my mother or my father. . . . They have no respect for life whatsoever. They’re scum.” And, of course, John White had understood the situation well when he told his wife that they had lost their dream house—a comment that, as it turned out, particularly incensed Joanne Cicciaro. (His sorrow, she said to reporters after testimony had ended, “was all for themselves—sorrow about losing their house, about their life changing. He never said, ‘Oh, my God! What did I do to that boy? Oh, my God. This kid is bleeding on the driveway. What did I do to him?’ He had no sympathy, no sorrow for shooting a child.”) Even before the trial, 40 Independence Way was listed with a real-estate broker. Its description began, “Stately 2 year young post-modern colonial in prestigious neighborhood.” 

Brenda Orr probably didn’t realize that the Bucks County dispatchers are represented by the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the second most powerful union (behind the teachers) in the U.S. AFSCME apparently owns the Bucks County Commissioners, because none of the dispatchers, whose incompetence allowed Orr to die, are being held accountable for their actions. Causing someone’s death should be grounds for termination, not grounds for reviewing tapes.

February 15, 2008

NY Times, February 14, 2008
PA 911 Dispatchers Croak Brenda Orr

Filed at 5:01 a.m. ET

DOYLESTOWN, Pa. (AP) — Ten emergency dispatchers were not busy when a woman called 911 to report a fire that killed her, yet it took six rings before anyone answered the phone, authorities said.

Brenda Orr, 53, was initially put on hold when someone answered her call Jan. 29. That person was already on another line dispatching an ambulance, but felt compelled to answer Orr’s call because the phone had rung six times, a county investigation found.

”Can you hold one second please?” the dispatcher said, according to a recording of the call.

”I can’t,” Orr answered. ”This is an emergency, 911 emergency. … Bed on fire.”

None of the 10 unoccupied dispatchers gave a ”reasonable explanation” for not answering the phone promptly, said Brent Wiggins, Bucks County’s director of emergency communications.

”They were just not doing their job properly,” Wiggins said Wednesday. ”That’s the bottom line. … One or two said they thought someone else was going to pick up the phone.”

Orr, who was bedridden with multiple sclerosis, could not escape the fire. Rescuers arrived less than four minutes after her call, said Jim Cawley, chairman of the county commissioners. Fire officials said they did not believe the delay in answering made a difference in her death.

Cawley said those involved were being disciplined. He declined to elaborate, but said no one was fired.

All county 911 operators must now review a tape of the call with their supervisors and compare it to one in which the operator gave exemplary service, he said.

Bartolomeo Vanzetti’s speech to a crooked judicial system

February 5, 2008

Yes. What I say is that I am innocent, not only of 

the Braintree crime but also of the 

Bridgewater crime. That I am not only innocent of 

these two crimes, but in all my life I have never 

stole and I have never killed and I have never 

spilled blood. That is what I want to say. And it is 

not all. Not only am I innocent of these two crimes, 

not only in all my life I have never stole, never 

killed, never spilled blood, but I have struggled all 

my life, since I began to reason, to eliminate crime 

from the earth. 

Everybody that knows these two arms knows 

very well that I did not need to go in between the 

street and kill a man to take the money. I can live 

with my two arms and live well. But besides that, I 

can live even without work with my arm for other 

people. I have had plenty of chance to live inde- 

pendently and to live what the world conceives to 

be a higher life than not to gain our bread with the 

sweat of our brow. . . . 

Well, I want to reach a little point farther, and it 

is this—that not only have I not been trying to steal 

in Bridgewater, not only have I not been in 

Braintree to steal and kill and have never steal or 

kill or spilt blood in all my life, not only have I 

struggled hard against crimes, but I have refused 

myself the commodity of glory of life, the pride of 

life of a good position because in my consideration 

it is not right to exploit man. . . . 

Now, I should say that I am not only innocent 

of all these things, not only have I never committed 

a real crime in my life—though some sins, but not 

crimes—not only have I struggled all my life to 

eliminate crimes that the official law and the offi- 

cial moral condemns, but also the crime that the 

official moral and the official law sanctions and 

sanctifies,—the exploitation and the oppression of 

the man by the man, and if there is a reason why I 

am here as a guilty man, if there is a reason why 

you in a few minutes can doom me, it is this reason 

and none else. 

I beg your pardon. There is the more good man 

I ever cast my eyes upon since I lived, a man that 

will last and will grow always more near and more 

dear to the people, as far as into the heart of the 

people, so long as admiration for goodness and for 

sacrifice will last. I mean Eugene Debs. . . . He 

know, and not only he but every man of under- 

standing in the world, not only in this country but 

also in the other countries, men that we have pro- 

vided a certain amount of a record of the times, 

they all stick with us, the flower of mankind of 

Europe, the better writers, the greatest thinkers, of 

Europe, have pleaded in our favor. The people of 

foreign nations have pleaded in our favor. 

Is it possible that only a few on the jury, only 

two or three men, who would condemn their moth- 

er for worldly honor and for earthly fortune; is it 

possible that they are right against what the world, 

the whole world has say it is wrong and that I know 

that it is wrong? If there is one that I should know 

it, if it is right or if it is wrong, it is I and this man. 

You see it is seven years that we are in jail. What 

we have suffered during those years no human 

tongue can say, and yet you see me before you, not 

trembling, you see me looking you in your eyes 

straight, not blushing, not changing color, not 

ashamed or in fear. . . . 

We have proved that there could not have been 

another Judge on the face of the earth more preju- 

diced and more cruel than you have been against 

us. We have proved that. Still they refuse the new 

trial. We know, and you know in your heart, that 

you have been against us from the very beginning, 

before you see us. Before you see us you already 

know that we were radicals, that we were under- 

dogs, that we were the enemy of the institution that 

you can believe in good faith in their goodness—I 

don’t want to condemn that—and that it was easy 

on the time of the first trial to get a verdict of 


Bush Court hoses Lily Ledbetter; hang on Stevens, Stevens hang on

February 5, 2008

1 (Slip Opinion) OCTOBER TERM, 2006 


NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is 

being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued. 

The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been 

prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader. 

See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321, 337. 






No. 05–1074. Argued November 27, 2006—Decided May 29, 2007 

During most of the time that petitioner Ledbetter was employed by 

respondent Goodyear, salaried employees at the plant where she 

worked were given or denied raises based on performance evalua- 

tions.  Ledbetter submitted a questionnaire to the Equal Employment 

Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in March 1998 and a formal EEOC 

charge in July 1998.  After her November 1998 retirement, she filed 

suit, asserting, among other things, a sex discrimination claim under 

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The District Court allowed 

her Title VII pay discrimination claim to proceed to trial.  There, 

Ledbetter alleged that several supervisors had in the past given her 

poor evaluations because of her sex; that as a result, her pay had not 

increased as much as it would have if she had been evaluated fairly; 

that those past pay decisions affected the amount of her pay through- 

out her employment; and that by the end of her employment, she was 

earning significantly less than her male colleagues.  Goodyear main- 

tained that the evaluations had been nondiscriminatory, but the jury 

found for Ledbetter, awarding backpay and damages.  On appeal, 

Goodyear contended that the pay discrimination claim was time 

barred with regard to all pay decisions made before September 26, 

1997—180 days before Ledbetter filed her EEOC questionnaire—and 

that no discriminatory act relating to her pay occurred after that 

date. The Eleventh Circuit reversed, holding that a Title VII pay dis- 

crimination claim cannot be based on allegedly discriminatory events 

that occurred before the last pay decision that affected the employee’s 

pay during the EEOC charging period, and concluding that there was 

insufficient evidence to prove that Goodyear had acted with discrimi- 

natory intent in making the only two pay decisions during that pe- 

riod, denials of raises in 1997 and 1998.   



Held: Because the later effects of past discrimination do not restart the 

clock for filing an EEOC charge, Ledbetter’s claim is untimely. 

Pp. 4–24. 

(a) An individual wishing to bring a Title VII lawsuit must first file 

an EEOC charge within, as relevant here, 180 days “after the alleged 

unlawful employment practice occurred.”  42 U. S. C. §2000e–2(a)(1). 

In addressing the issue of an EEOC charge’s timeliness, this Court 

has stressed the need to identify with care the specific employment 

practice at issue.  Ledbetter’s arguments—that the paychecks that 

she received during the charging period and the 1998 raise denial 

each violated Title VII and triggered a new EEOC charging period— 

fail because they would require the Court in effect to jettison the de- 

fining element of the disparate-treatment claim on which her Title 

VII recovery was based, discriminatory intent.  United Air Lines, Inc. 

v. Evans, 431 U. S. 553, Delaware State College v. Ricks, 449 U. S. 

250, Lorance v. AT&T Technologies, Inc., 490 U. S. 900, and National 

Railroad Passenger Corporation v. Morgan, 536 U. S. 101, clearly in- 

struct that the EEOC charging period is triggered when a discrete 

unlawful practice takes place.  A new violation does not occur, and a 

new charging period does not commence, upon the occurrence of sub- 

sequent nondiscriminatory acts that entail adverse effects resulting 

from the past discrimination.  But if an employer engages in a series 

of separately actionable intentionally discriminatory acts, then a 

fresh violation takes place when each act is committed.  Ledbetter 

makes no claim that intentionally discriminatory conduct occurred 

during the charging period or that discriminatory decisions occurring 

before that period were not communicated to her.  She argues simply 

that Goodyear’s nondiscriminatory conduct during the charging pe- 

riod gave present effect to discriminatory conduct outside of that pe- 

riod. But current effects alone cannot breathe life into prior, un- 

charged discrimination.  Ledbetter should have filed an EEOC charge 

within 180 days after each allegedly discriminatory employment de- 

cision was made and communicated to her.  Her attempt to shift for- 

ward the intent associated with prior discriminatory acts to the 1998 

pay decision is unsound, for it would shift intent away from the act 

that consummated the discriminatory employment practice to a later 

act not performed with bias or discriminatory motive, imposing liabil- 

ity in the absence of the requisite intent.  Her argument would also 

distort Title VII’s “integrated, multistep enforcement procedure.”  Oc- 

cidental Life Ins. Co. of Cal. v. EEOC, 432 U. S. 355, 359.  The short 

EEOC filing deadline reflects Congress’ strong preference for the 

prompt resolution of employment discrimination allegations through 

voluntary conciliation and cooperation.  Id., at 367–368.  Nothing in 

Title VII supports treating the intent element of Ledbetter’s dispa-

3 Cite as: 550 U. S. ____ (2007) 


rate-treatment claim any differently from the employment practice 

element of the claim.  Pp. 4–13. 

(b) Bazemore v. Friday, 478 U. S. 385 (per curiam), which con- 

cerned a disparate-treatment pay claim, is entirely consistent with 

Evans, Ricks, Lorance, and Morgan.  Bazemore’s rule is that an em- 

ployer violates Title VII and triggers a new EEOC charging period 

whenever the employer issues paychecks using a discriminatory pay 

structure.  It is not, as Ledbetter contends, a “paycheck accrual rule” 

under which each paycheck, even if not accompanied by discrimina- 

tory intent, triggers a new EEOC charging period during which the 

complainant may properly challenge any prior discriminatory con- 

duct that impacted that paycheck’s amount, no matter how long ago 

the discrimination occurred.  Because Ledbetter has not adduced evi- 

dence that Goodyear initially adopted its performance-based pay sys- 

tem in order to discriminate based on sex or that it later applied this 

system to her within the charging period with discriminatory animus, 

Bazemore is of no help to her.  Pp. 13–21. 

(c) Ledbetter’s “paycheck accrual rule” is also not supported by ei- 

ther analogies to the statutory regimes of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, 

the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, or the National Labor Rela- 

tions Act, or policy arguments for giving special treatment to pay 

claims.  Pp. 21–24. 

421 F. 3d 1169, affirmed. 

ALITO, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., 

and SCALIA, KENNEDY, and THOMAS, JJ., joined.  GINSBURG, J., filed a 

dissenting opinion, in which STEVENS, SOUTER, and BREYER, JJ., joined. 



1 Cite as: 550 U. S. ____ (2007) 

Opinion of the Court 

NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the 

preliminary print of the United States Reports. Readers are requested to 

notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court of the United States, Wash- 

ington, D. C. 20543, of any typographical or other formal errors, in order 

that corrections may be made before the preliminary print goes to press. 


No. 05–1074 









[May 29, 2007] 


JUSTICE ALITO delivered the opinion of the Court. 

This case calls upon us to apply established precedent in 

a slightly different context. We have previously held that 

the time for filing a charge of employment discrimination 

with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission 

(EEOC) begins when the discriminatory act occurs.  We 

have explained that this rule applies to any “[d]iscrete 

ac[t]” of discrimination, including discrimination in “ter- 

mination, failure to promote, denial of transfer, [and] 

refusal to hire.” National Railroad Passenger Corporation 

v. Morgan, 536 U. S. 101, 114 (2002).  Because a pay- 

setting decision is a “discrete act,” it follows that the pe- 

riod for filing an EEOC charge begins when the act occurs. 

Petitioner, having abandoned her claim under the Equal 

Pay Act, asks us to deviate from our prior decisions in 

order to permit her to assert her claim under Title VII. 

Petitioner also contends that discrimination in pay is 

different from other types of employment discrimination 

and thus should be governed by a different rule. But 

because a pay-setting decision is a discrete act that occurs 

at a particular point in time, these arguments must be 


Opinion of the Court 

rejected. We therefore affirm the judgment of the Court of 


Petitioner Lilly Ledbetter (Ledbetter) worked for respon- 

dent Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company (Goodyear) at its 

Gadsden, Alabama, plant from 1979 until 1998.  During 

much of this time, salaried employees at the plant were 

given or denied raises based on their supervisors’ evalua- 

tion of their performance.  In March 1998, Ledbetter sub- 

mitted a questionnaire to the EEOC alleging certain acts of 

sex discrimination, and in July of that year she filed a 

formal EEOC charge.  After taking early retirement in 

November 1998, Ledbetter commenced this action, in 

which she asserted, among other claims, a Title VII pay 

discrimination claim and a claim under the Equal Pay Act 

of 1963 (EPA), 29 U. S. C. §206(d). 

The District Court granted summary judgment in favor 

of Goodyear on several of Ledbetter’s claims, including her 

Equal Pay Act claim, but allowed others, including her 

Title VII pay discrimination claim, to proceed to trial. In 

support of this latter claim, Ledbetter introduced evidence 

that during the course of her employment several supervi- 

sors had given her poor evaluations because of her sex, 

that as a result of these evaluations her pay was not in- 

creased as much as it would have been if she had been 

evaluated fairly, and that these past pay decisions contin- 

ued to affect the amount of her pay throughout her em- 

ployment. Toward the end of her time with Goodyear, she 

was being paid significantly less than any of her male 

colleagues. Goodyear maintained that the evaluations had 

been nondiscriminatory, but the jury found for Ledbetter 

and awarded her backpay and damages. 

On appeal, Goodyear contended that Ledbetter’s pay 

discrimination claim was time barred with respect to all 

pay decisions made prior to September 26, 1997—that is, 

3 Cite as: 550 U. S. ____ (2007) 

Opinion of the Court 

180 days before the filing of her EEOC questionnaire.1 

And Goodyear argued that no discriminatory act relating 

to Ledbetter’s pay occurred after that date. 

The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed, 

holding that a Title VII pay discrimination claim cannot 

be based on any pay decision that occurred prior to the 

last pay decision that affected the employee’s pay during 

the EEOC charging period.  421 F. 3d 1169, 1182–1183 

(2005). The Court of Appeals then concluded that there 

was insufficient evidence to prove that Goodyear had acted 

with discriminatory intent in making the only two pay 

decisions that occurred within that time span, namely, a 

decision made in 1997 to deny Ledbetter a raise and a 

similar decision made in 1998.  Id., at 1186–1187. 

Ledbetter filed a petition for a writ of certiorari but did 

not seek review of the Court of Appeals’ holdings regard- 

ing the sufficiency of the evidence in relation to the 1997 

and 1998 pay decisions. Rather, she sought review of the 

following question: 

“Whether and under what circumstances a plaintiff 

may bring an action under Title VII of the Civil 

Rights Act of 1964 alleging illegal pay discrimination 

when the disparate pay is received during the statu- 

tory limitations period, but is the result of intention- 

ally discriminatory pay decisions that occurred out- 

side the limitations period.” Pet. for Cert. i. 

In light of disagreement among the Courts of Appeals as 

to the proper application of the limitations period in Title 

VII disparate-treatment pay cases, compare 421 F. 3d 


The parties assume that the EEOC charging period runs backwards 

from the date of the questionnaire, even though Ledbetter’s discrimina- 

tory pay claim was not added until the July 1998 formal charge. 421 

F. 3d 1169, 1178 (CA11 2005).  We likewise assume for the sake of 

argument that the filing of the questionnaire, rather than the formal 

charge, is the appropriate date. 


Opinion of the Court 

1169, with Forsyth v. Federation Employment & Guidance 

Serv., 409 F. 3d 565 (CA2 2005); Shea v. Rice, 409 F. 3d 

448 (CADC 2005), we granted certiorari, 548 U. S. ___ 



Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it an 

“unlawful employment practice” to discriminate “against 

any individual with respect to his compensation . . . be- 

cause of such individual’s . . . sex.”  42 U. S. C. §2000e– 

2(a)(1). An individual wishing to challenge an employ- 

ment practice under this provision must first file a charge 

with the EEOC.  §2000e–5(e)(1).  Such a charge must be 

filed within a specified period (either 180 or 300 days, 

depending on the State) “after the alleged unlawful em- 

ployment practice occurred,” ibid., and if the employee 

does not submit a timely EEOC charge, the employee may 

not challenge that practice in court, §2000e–5(f)(1). 

In addressing the issue whether an EEOC charge was 

filed on time, we have stressed the need to identify with 

care the specific employment practice that is at issue. 

Morgan, 536 U. S., at 110–111.  Ledbetter points to two 

different employment practices as possible candidates. 

Primarily, she urges us to focus on the paychecks that 

were issued to her during the EEOC charging period (the 

180-day period preceding the filing of her EEOC question- 

naire), each of which, she contends, was a separate act of 

discrimination. Alternatively, Ledbetter directs us to the 

1998 decision denying her a raise, and she argues that this 

decision was “unlawful because it carried forward inten- 

tionally discriminatory disparities from prior years.” 

Reply Brief for Petitioner 20. Both of these arguments fail 

because they would require us in effect to jettison the 

defining element of the legal claim on which her Title VII 

recovery was based. 

Ledbetter asserted disparate treatment, the central 

5 Cite as: 550 U. S. ____ (2007) 

Opinion of the Court 

element of which is discriminatory intent.  See Chardon v. 

Fernandez, 454 U. S. 6, 8 (1981) (per curiam); Teamsters v. 

United States, 431 U. S. 324, 335, n. 15 (1977); Watson v. 

Fort Worth Bank & Trust, 487 U. S. 977, 1002 (1998) 

(Blackmun, J., joined by Brennan, and Marshall, JJ., 

concurring in part and concurring in judgment) (“[A] 

disparate-treatment challenge focuses exclusively on the 

intent of the employer”).  However, Ledbetter does not 

assert that the relevant Goodyear decisionmakers acted 

with actual discriminatory intent either when they issued 

her checks during the EEOC charging period or when they 

denied her a raise in 1998.  Rather, she argues that the 

paychecks were unlawful because they would have been 

larger if she had been evaluated in a nondiscriminatory 

manner prior to the EEOC charging period. Brief for 

Petitioner 22. Similarly, she maintains that the 1998 

decision was unlawful because it “carried forward” the 

effects of prior, uncharged discrimination decisions.  Reply 

Brief for Petitioner 20.  In essence, she suggests that it is 

sufficient that discriminatory acts that occurred prior to 

the charging period had continuing effects during that 

period. Brief for Petitioner 13 (“[E]ach paycheck that 

offers a woman less pay than a similarly situated man 

because of her sex is a separate violation of Title VII with 

its own limitations period, regardless of whether the pay- 

check simply implements a prior discriminatory decision 

made outside the limitations period”); see also Reply Brief 

for Petitioner 20. This argument is squarely foreclosed by 

our precedents. 

In United Air Lines, Inc. v. Evans, 431 U. S. 553 (1977), 

we rejected an argument that is basically the same as 

Ledbetter’s.  Evans was forced to resign because the air- 

line refused to employ married flight attendants, but she 

did not file an EEOC charge regarding her termination. 

Some years later, the airline rehired her but treated her 

as a new employee for seniority purposes. Id., at 554–555. 


Opinion of the Court 

Evans then sued, arguing that, while any suit based on 

the original discrimination was time barred, the airline’s 

refusal to give her credit for her prior service gave “pre- 

sent effect to [its] past illegal act and thereby perpetu- 

ate[d] the consequences of forbidden discrimination.”  Id., 

at 557. 

We agreed with Evans that the airline’s “seniority sys- 

tem [did] indeed have a continuing impact on her pay and 

fringe benefits,” id., at 558, but we noted that “the critical 

question [was] whether any present violation exist[ed].” 

Ibid. (emphasis in original).  We concluded that the con- 

tinuing effects of the precharging period discrimination 

did not make out a present violation. As JUSTICE STEVENS 

wrote for the Court: 

“United was entitled to treat [Evans’ termination] as 

lawful after respondent failed to file a charge of dis- 

crimination within the 90 days then allowed by 

§706(d). A discriminatory act which is not made the 

basis for a timely charge . . . is merely an unfortunate 

event in history which has no present legal conse- 

quences.” Ibid. 

It would be difficult to speak to the point more directly. 

Equally instructive is Delaware State College v. Ricks, 

449 U. S. 250 (1980), which concerned a college librarian, 

Ricks, who alleged that he had been discharged because of 

race.  In March 1974, Ricks was denied tenure, but he was 

given a final, nonrenewable one-year contract that expired 

on June 30, 1975. Id., at 252–253.  Ricks delayed filing a 

charge with the EEOC until April 1975, id., at 254, but he 

argued that the EEOC charging period ran from the date of 

his actual termination rather than from the date when 

tenure was denied.  In rejecting this argument, we recog- 

nized that “one of the effects of the denial of tenure,” 

namely, his ultimate termination, “did not occur until 

later.”  Id., at 258 (emphasis in original).  But because 

7 Cite as: 550 U. S. ____ (2007) 

Opinion of the Court 

Ricks failed to identify any specific discriminatory act “that 

continued until, or occurred at the time of, the actual 

termination of his employment,” id., at 257, we held that 

the EEOC charging period ran from “the time the tenure 

decision was made and communicated to Ricks,” id., at 258. 

This same approach dictated the outcome in Lorance v. 

AT&T Technologies, Inc., 490 U. S. 900 (1989), which grew 

out of a change in the way in which seniority was calcu- 

lated under a collective-bargaining agreement.  Before 

1979, all employees at the plant in question accrued sen- 

iority based simply on years of employment at the plant. 

In 1979, a new agreement made seniority for workers in 

the more highly paid (and traditionally male) position of 

“tester” depend on time spent in that position alone and 

not in other positions in the plant.  Several years later, 

when female testers were laid off due to low seniority as 

calculated under the new provision, they filed an EEOC 

charge alleging that the 1979 scheme had been adopted 

with discriminatory intent, namely, to protect incumbent 

male testers when women with substantial plant seniority 

began to move into the traditionally male tester positions. 

Id., at 902–903. 

We held that the plaintiffs’ EEOC charge was not timely 

because it was not filed within the specified period after 

the adoption in 1979 of the new seniority rule.  We noted 

that the plaintiffs had not alleged that the new seniority 

rule treated men and women differently or that the rule 

had been applied in a discriminatory manner.  Rather, 

their complaint was that the rule was adopted originally 

with discriminatory intent.  Id., at 905.  And as in Evans 

and Ricks, we held that the EEOC charging period ran 

from the time when the discrete act of alleged intentional 

discrimination occurred, not from the date when the ef- 

fects of this practice were felt.  490 U. S., at 907–908.  We 



Opinion of the Court 

“Because the claimed invalidity of the facially nondis- 

criminatory and neutrally applied tester seniority sys- 

tem is wholly dependent on the alleged illegality of 

signing the underlying agreement, it is the date of 

that signing which governs the limitations period.” 

Id., at 911.2 

Our most recent decision in this area confirms this 

understanding. In Morgan, we explained that the statu- 

tory term “employment practice” generally refers to “a 

discrete act or single ‘occurrence’” that takes place at a 

particular point in time.  536 U. S., at 110–111.  We 

pointed to “termination, failure to promote, denial of 

transfer, [and] refusal to hire” as examples of such “dis- 

crete” acts, and we held that a Title VII plaintiff “can only 

file a charge to cover discrete acts that ‘occurred’ within 

the appropriate time period.”  Id., at 114. 

The instruction provided by Evans, Ricks, Lorance, and 

Morgan is clear.  The EEOC charging period is triggered 

when a discrete unlawful practice takes place.  A new 

violation does not occur, and a new charging period does 


After Lorance, Congress amended Title VII to cover the specific 

situation involved in that case.  See 42 U. S. C. §2000e–5(e)(2) (allowing 

for Title VII liability arising from an intentionally discriminatory 

seniority system both at the time of its adoption and at the time of its 

application).  The dissent attaches great significance to this amend- 

ment, suggesting that it shows that Lorance was wrongly reasoned as 

an initial matter.  Post, at 10–12 (opinion of GINSBURG, J.). However, 

the very legislative history cited by the dissent explains that this 

amendment and the other 1991 Title VII amendments “ ‘expand[ed] the 

scope of relevant civil rights statutes in order to provide adequate 

protection to victims of discrimination.’ ”  Post, at 11 (emphasis added). 

For present purposes, what is most important about the amendment in 

question is that it applied only to the adoption of a discriminatory 

seniority system, not to other types of employment discrimination. 

Evans and Ricks, upon which Lorance relied, 490 U. S., at 906–908, and 

which employed identical reasoning, were left in place, and these 

decisions are more than sufficient to support our holding today. 

9 Cite as: 550 U. S. ____ (2007) 

Opinion of the Court 

not commence, upon the occurrence of subsequent non- 

discriminatory acts that entail adverse effects resulting 

from the past discrimination. But of course, if an em- 

ployer engages in a series of acts each of which is inten- 

tionally discriminatory, then a fresh violation takes place 

when each act is committed. See Morgan, supra, at 113. 

Ledbetter’s arguments here—that the paychecks that 

she received during the charging period and the 1998 raise 

denial each violated Title VII and triggered a new EEOC 

charging period—cannot be reconciled with Evans, Ricks, 

Lorance, and Morgan. Ledbetter, as noted, makes no 

claim that intentionally discriminatory conduct occurred 

during the charging period or that discriminatory deci- 

sions that occurred prior to that period were not communi- 

cated to her. Instead, she argues simply that Goodyear’s 

conduct during the charging period gave present effect to 

discriminatory conduct outside of that period.  Brief for 

Petitioner 13. But current effects alone cannot breathe 

life into prior, uncharged discrimination; as we held in 

Evans, such effects in themselves have “no present legal 

consequences.”  431 U. S., at 558.  Ledbetter should have 

filed an EEOC charge within 180 days after each allegedly 

discriminatory pay decision was made and communicated 

to her. She did not do so, and the paychecks that were 

issued to her during the 180 days prior to the filing of her 

EEOC charge do not provide a basis for overcoming that 

prior failure. 

In an effort to circumvent the need to prove discrimina- 

tory intent during the charging period, Ledbetter relies on 

the intent associated with other decisions made by other 

persons at other times.  Reply Brief for Petitioner 6 (“Inten- 

tional discrimination . . . occurs when . . . differential treat- 

ment takes place, even if the intent to engage in that con- 

duct for a discriminatory purpose was made previously”). 

Ledbetter’s attempt to take the intent associated with 

the prior pay decisions and shift it to the 1998 pay deci-


Opinion of the Court 

sion is unsound. It would shift intent from one act (the act 

that consummates the discriminatory employment prac- 

tice) to a later act that was not performed with bias or 

discriminatory motive.  The effect of this shift would be to 

impose liability in the absence of the requisite intent. 

Our cases recognize this point.  In Evans, for example, 

we did not take the airline’s discriminatory intent in 1968, 

when it discharged the plaintiff because of her sex, and 

attach that intent to its later act of neutrally applying its 

seniority rules.  Similarly, in Ricks, we did not take the 

discriminatory intent that the college allegedly possessed 

when it denied Ricks tenure and attach that intent to its 

subsequent act of terminating his employment when his 

nonrenewable contract ran out. On the contrary, we held 

that “the only alleged discrimination occurred—and the 

filing limitations periods therefore commenced—at the 

time the tenure decision was made and communicated to 

Ricks.” 449 U. S., at 258. 

Not only would Ledbetter’s argument effectively elimi- 

nate the defining element of her disparate-treatment 

claim, but it would distort Title VII’s “integrated, 

multistep enforcement procedure.” Occidental Life Ins. 

Co. of Cal. v. EEOC, 432 U. S. 355, 359 (1977).  We have 

previously noted the legislative compromises that pre- 

ceded the enactment of Title VII, Mohasco Corp. v. Silver, 

447 U. S. 807, 819–821 (1980); EEOC v. Commercial Office 

Products Co., 486 U. S. 107, 126 (1988) (STEVENS, J., 

joined by Rehnquist, C. J., and SCALIA, J., dissenting). 

Respectful of the legislative process that crafted this 

scheme, we must “give effect to the statute as enacted,” 

Mohasco, supra, at 819, and we have repeatedly rejected 

suggestions that we extend or truncate Congress’ dead- 

lines. See, e.g., Electrical Workers v. Robbins & Myers, 

Inc., 429 U. S. 229, 236–240 (1976) (union grievance pro- 

cedures do not toll EEOC filing deadline); Alexander v. 

Gardner-Denver Co., 415 U. S. 36, 47–49 (1974) (arbitral 

11 Cite as: 550 U. S. ____ (2007) 

Opinion of the Court 

decisions do not foreclose access to court following a timely 

filed EEOC complaint). 

Statutes of limitations serve a policy of repose.  Ameri- 

can Pipe & Constr. Co. v. Utah, 414 U. S. 538, 554–555 

(1974). They 

“represent a pervasive legislative judgment that it is 

unjust to fail to put the adversary on notice to defend 

within a specified period of time and that ‘the right to 

be free of stale claims in time comes to prevail over 

the right to prosecute them.’”  United States v. Ku- 

brick, 444 U. S. 111, 117 (1979) (quoting Railroad 

Telegraphers v. Railway Express Agency, Inc., 321 

U. S. 342, 349 (1944)). 

The EEOC filing deadline “protect[s] employers from the 

burden of defending claims arising from employment 

decisions that are long past.” Ricks, supra, at 256–257. 

Certainly, the 180-day EEOC charging deadline, 42 

U. S. C. §2000e–5(e)(1), is short by any measure, but “[b]y 

choosing what are obviously quite short deadlines, Con- 

gress clearly intended to encourage the prompt processing 

of all charges of employment discrimination.” Mohasco, 

supra, at 825.  This short deadline reflects Congress’ 

strong preference for the prompt resolution of employment 

discrimination allegations through voluntary conciliation 

and cooperation. Occidental Life Ins., supra, at 367–368; 

Alexander, supra, at 44. 

A disparate-treatment claim comprises two elements: an 

employment practice, and discriminatory intent.  Nothing 

in Title VII supports treating the intent element of 

Ledbetter’s claim any differently from the employment 

practice element.3  If anything, concerns regarding stale 


Of course, there may be instances where the elements forming a 

cause of action span more than 180 days.  Say, for instance, an em- 

ployer forms an illegal discriminatory intent towards an employee but 

does not act on it until 181 days later.  The charging period would not 


Opinion of the Court 

claims weigh more heavily with respect to proof of the 

intent associated with employment practices than with the 

practices themselves.  For example, in a case such as this 

in which the plaintiff’s claim concerns the denial of raises, 

the employer’s challenged acts (the decisions not to in- 

crease the employee’s pay at the times in question) will 

almost always be documented and will typically not even 

be in dispute. By contrast, the employer’s intent is almost 

always disputed, and evidence relating to intent may fade 

quickly with time.  In most disparate-treatment cases, 

much if not all of the evidence of intent is circumstantial. 

Thus, the critical issue in a case involving a long-past 

performance evaluation will often be whether the evalua- 

tion was so far off the mark that a sufficient inference of 

discriminatory intent can be drawn.  See Watson, 487 

U. S., at 1004 (Blackmun, J., joined by Brennan and Mar- 

shall, JJ., concurring in part and concurring in judgment) 

(noting that in a disparate-treatment claim, the McDon- 

nell Douglas factors establish discrimination by inference). 

See also, e.g., Zhuang v. Datacard Corp., 414 F. 3d 849 

(CA8 2005) (rejecting inference of discrimination from 

performance evaluations); Cooper v. Southern Co., 390 

F. 3d 695, 732–733 (CA11 2004) (same). This can be a 

subtle determination, and the passage of time may seri- 

ously diminish the ability of the parties and the factfinder 

to reconstruct what actually happened.4 


begin to run until the employment practice was executed on day 181 

because until that point the employee had no cause of action.  The act 

and intent had not yet been joined.  Here, by contrast, Ledbetter’s 

cause of action was fully formed and present at the time that the 

discriminatory employment actions were taken against her, at which 

point she could have, and should have, sued. 

The dissent dismisses this concern, post, at 15–16, but this case 

illustrates the problems created by tardy lawsuits.  Ledbetter’s claims 

of sex discrimination turned principally on the misconduct of a single 

Goodyear supervisor, who, Ledbetter testified, retaliated against her 

when she rejected his sexual advances during the early 1980’s, and did 

13 Cite as: 550 U. S. ____ (2007) 

Opinion of the Court 

Ledbetter contends that employers would be protected 

by the equitable doctrine of laches, but Congress plainly 

did not think that laches was sufficient in this context. 

Indeed, Congress took a diametrically different approach, 

including in Title VII a provision allowing only a few 

months in most cases to file a charge with the EEOC.  42 

U. S. C. §2000e–5(e)(1). 

Ultimately, “experience teaches that strict adherence 

to the procedural requirements specified by the legisla- 

ture is the best guarantee of evenhanded administration 

of the law.” Mohasco, 447 U. S., at 826.  By operation of 

§§2000e–5(e)(1) and 2000e–5(f)(1), a Title VII “claim is 

time barred if it is not filed within these time limits.” 

Morgan, 536 U. S., at 109; Electrical Workers, 429 U. S., 

at 236. We therefore reject the suggestion that an em- 

ployment practice committed with no improper purpose 

and no discriminatory intent is rendered unlawful none- 

theless because it gives some effect to an intentional  

discriminatory act that occurred outside the charging 

period. Ledbetter’s claim is, for this reason, untimely. 




In advancing her two theories Ledbetter does not seri- 

ously contest the logic of Evans, Ricks, Lorance, and Mor- 

gan as set out above, but rather argues that our decision 

in Bazemore v. Friday, 478 U. S. 385 (1986) (per curiam)

requires different treatment of her claim because it relates 

to pay. Ledbetter focuses specifically on our statement 


so again in the mid-1990’s when he falsified deficiency reports about 

her work.  His misconduct, Ledbetter argues, was “a principal basis for 

[her] performance evaluation in 1997.”  Brief for Petitioner 6; see also 

id., at 5–6, 8, 11 (stressing the same supervisor’s misconduct).  Yet, by 

the time of trial, this supervisor had died and therefore could not 

testify.  A timely charge might have permitted his evidence to be 

weighed contemporaneously. 


Opinion of the Court 

that “[e]ach week’s paycheck that delivers less to a black 

than to a similarly situated white is a wrong actionable 

under Title VII.”  Id., at 395. She argues that in Bazemore 

we adopted a “paycheck accrual rule” under which each 

paycheck, even if not accompanied by discriminatory 

intent, triggers a new EEOC charging period during which 

the complainant may properly challenge any prior dis- 

criminatory conduct that impacted the amount of that 

paycheck, no matter how long ago the discrimination 

occurred. On this reading, Bazemore dispensed with the 

need to prove actual discriminatory intent in pay cases 

and, without giving any hint that it was doing so, repudi- 

ated the very different approach taken previously in Ev- 

ans and Ricks. Ledbetter’s interpretation is unsound. 

Bazemore concerned a disparate-treatment pay claim 

brought against the North Carolina Agricultural Exten- 

sion Service (Service). 478 U. S., at 389–390.  Service 

employees were originally segregated into “a white 

branch” and “a ‘Negro branch,’” with the latter receiving 

less pay, but in 1965 the two branches were merged.  Id., 

at 390–391. After Title VII was extended to public em- 

ployees in 1972, black employees brought suit claiming 

that pay disparities attributable to the old dual pay scale 

persisted. Id., at 391. The Court of Appeals rejected this 

claim, which it interpreted to be that the “‘discriminatory 

difference in salaries should have been affirmatively 

eliminated.’”  Id., at 395. 

This Court reversed in a per curiam opinion, 478 U. S., 

at 386–388, but all of the Members of the Court joined 

Justice Brennan’s separate opinion, see id., at 388 (opin- 

ion concurring in part). Justice Brennan wrote: 

“The error of the Court of Appeals with respect to sal- 

ary disparities created prior to 1972 and perpetuated 

thereafter is too obvious to warrant extended discus- 

sion: that the Extension Service discriminated with 

15 Cite as: 550 U. S. ____ (2007) 

Opinion of the Court 

respect to salaries prior to the time it was covered by 

Title VII does not excuse perpetuating that discrimi- 

nation after the Extension Service became covered by 

Title VII. To hold otherwise would have the effect of 

exempting from liability those employers who were 

historically the greatest offenders of the rights of 

blacks. A pattern or practice that would have consti- 

tuted a violation of Title VII, but for the fact that the 

statute had not yet become effective, became a viola- 

tion upon Title VII’s effective date, and to the extent 

an employer continued to engage in that act or prac- 

tice, it is liable under that statute.  While recovery 

may not be permitted for pre-1972 acts of discrimina- 

tion, to the extent that this discrimination was per- 

petuated after 1972, liability may be imposed.”  Id., at 

395 (emphasis in original). 

Far from adopting the approach that Ledbetter ad- 

vances here, this passage made a point that was “too 

obvious to warrant extended discussion,” ibid.; namely, 

that when an employer adopts a facially discriminatory 

pay structure that puts some employees on a lower scale 

because of race, the employer engages in intentional dis- 

crimination whenever it issues a check to one of these 

disfavored employees. An employer that adopts and inten- 

tionally retains such a pay structure can surely be re- 

garded as intending to discriminate on the basis of race as 

long as the structure is used. 

Bazemore thus is entirely consistent with our prior 

precedents, as Justice Brennan’s opinion took care to point 

out. Noting that Evans turned on whether “‘any present 

violation exist[ed],’” Justice Brennan stated that the 

Bazemore plaintiffs were alleging that the defendants 

“ha[d] not from the date of the Act forward made all their 

employment decisions in a wholly nondiscriminatory way,” 

478 U. S., at 396–397, n. 6 (emphasis in original; internal 


Opinion of the Court 

quotation marks and brackets omitted)–which is to say 

that they had engaged in fresh discrimination.  Justice 

Brennan added that the Court’s “holding in no sense 

g[ave] legal effect to the pre-1972 actions, but, consistent 

with Evans . . . focuse[d] on the present salary structure, 

which is illegal if it is a mere continuation of the pre-1965 

discriminatory pay structure.” Id., at 397, n. 6 (emphasis 


The sentence in Justice Brennan’s opinion on which 

Ledbetter chiefly relies comes directly after the passage 

quoted above, and makes a similarly obvious point: 

“Each week’s paycheck that delivers less to a black 

than to a similarly situated white is a wrong action- 

able under Title VII, regardless of the fact that this 

pattern was begun prior to the effective date of Title 

VII.” Id., at 395.5 


That the focus in Bazemore was on a current violation, not the car- 

rying forward of a past act of discrimination, was made clearly by the 

side opinion in the Court of Appeals: 

“[T]he majority holds, in effect, that because the pattern of discrimina- 

tory salaries here challenged originated before applicable provisions of 

the Civil Rights Act made their payment illegal, any ‘lingering effects’ 

of that earlier pattern cannot (presumably on an indefinitely main- 

tained basis) be considered in assessing a challenge to post-act con- 

tinuation of that pattern. 

“Hazelwood and Evans indeed made it clear that an employer cannot 

be found liable, or sanctioned with remedy, for employment decisions 

made before they were declared illegal or as to which the claimant has 

lost any right of action by lapse of time.  For this reason it is generally 

true that, as the catch-phrase has it, Title VII imposed ‘no obligation to 

catch-up,’ i.e., affirmatively to remedy present effects of pre-Act dis- 

crimination, whether in composing a work force or otherwise.  But 

those cases cannot be thought to insulate employment decisions that 

presently are illegal on the basis that at one time comparable decisions 

were legal when made by the particular employer.  It is therefore one 

thing to say that an employer who upon the effective date of Title VII 

finds itself with a racially unbalanced work-force need not act affirma- 

tively to redress the balance; and quite another to say that it may also 

17 Cite as: 550 U. S. ____ (2007) 

Opinion of the Court 

In other words, a freestanding violation may always be 

charged within its own charging period regardless of its 

connection to other violations.  We repeated this same 

point more recently in Morgan: “The existence of past acts 

and the employee’s prior knowledge of their occurrence . . . 

does not bar employees from filing charges about related 

discrete acts so long as the acts are independently dis- 

criminatory and charges addressing those acts are them- 

selves timely filed.” 536 U. S., at 113.6  Neither of these 

opinions stands for the proposition that an action not 

comprising an employment practice and alleged discrimi- 

natory intent is separately chargeable, just because it is 

related to some past act of discrimination. 

Ledbetter attempts to eliminate the obvious inconsis- 

tencies between her interpretation of Bazemore and the 

Evans/Ricks/Lorance/Morgan line of cases on the ground 

that none of the latter cases involved pay raises, but the 

logic of our prior cases is fully applicable to pay cases. To 

take Evans as an example, the employee there was unlaw- 

fully terminated; this caused her to lose seniority; and the 

loss of seniority affected her wages, among other things. 

431 U. S., at 555, n. 5 (“[S]eniority determine[s] a flight 


continue to make discriminatory hiring decisions because it was by that 

means that its present work force was composed.  It may not, in short, 

under the Hazelwood/Evans principle continue practices now violative 

simply because at one time they were not.”  Bazemore v. Friday, 751 

F. 2d 662, 695–696 (CA4 1984) (Phillips, J., concurring in part and 

dissenting in part) (emphasis in original; footnotes omitted). 

The briefs filed with this Court in Bazemore v. Friday, 478 U. S. 385 

(1986) (per curiam), further elucidate the point.  The petitioners de- 

scribed the Service’s conduct as “[t]he continued use of a racially 

explicit base wage.”  Brief for Petitioner Bazemore et al. in Bazemore v. 

Friday, O. T. 1985, No. 85–93, p. 33.  The United States’ brief also 

properly distinguished the commission of a discrete discriminatory act 

with continuing adverse results from the intentional carrying forward 

of a discriminatory pay system.  Brief for Federal Petitioners in 

Bazemore v. Friday, O. T. 1984, Nos. 85–93 and 85–428, p. 17.  This 

case involves the former, not the latter. 


Opinion of the Court 

attendant’s wages; the duration and timing of vacations; 

rights to retention in the event of layoffs and rights to re- 

employment thereafter; and rights to preferential selection 

of flight assignments”).  The relationship between past 

discrimination and adverse present effects was the same 

in Evans as it is here. Thus, the argument that Ledbetter 

urges us to accept here would necessarily have com- 

manded a different outcome in Evans. 

Bazemore stands for the proposition that an employer 

violates Title VII and triggers a new EEOC charging 

period whenever the employer issues paychecks using a 

discriminatory pay structure.  But a new Title VII viola- 

tion does not occur and a new charging period is not trig- 

gered when an employer issues paychecks pursuant to a 

system that is “facially nondiscriminatory and neutrally 

applied.” Lorance, 490 U. S., at 911.  The fact that pre- 

charging period discrimination adversely affects the calcu- 

lation of a neutral factor (like seniority) that is used in 

determining future pay does not mean that each new 

paycheck constitutes a new violation and restarts the 

EEOC charging period. 

Because Ledbetter has not adduced evidence that Good- 

year initially adopted its performance-based pay system in 

order to discriminate on the basis of sex or that it later 

applied this system to her within the charging period with 

any discriminatory animus, Bazemore is of no help to her. 

Rather, all Ledbetter has alleged is that Goodyear’s agents 

discriminated against her individually in the past and 

that this discrimination reduced the amount of later pay- 

checks. Because Ledbetter did not file timely EEOC 

charges relating to her employer’s discriminatory pay 

decisions in the past, she cannot maintain a suit based on 

that past discrimination at this time. 

The dissent also argues that pay claims are different. 

19 Cite as: 550 U. S. ____ (2007) 

Opinion of the Court 

Its principal argument is that a pay discrimination claim 

is like a hostile work environment claim because both 

types of claims are “‘based on the cumulative effect of 

individual acts,’” post, at 6–7, but this analogy overlooks 

the critical conceptual distinction between these two types 

of claims. And although the dissent relies heavily on 

Morgan, the dissent’s argument is fundamentally incon- 

sistent with Morgan’s reasoning. 

Morgan distinguished between “discrete” acts of dis- 

crimination and a hostile work environment.  A discrete 

act of discrimination is an act that in itself “constitutes a 

separate actionable ‘unlawful employment practice’” and 

that is temporally distinct. Morgan, 536 U. S., at 114, 

117. As examples we identified “termination, failure to 

promote, denial of transfer, or refusal to hire.” Id., at 114. 

A hostile work environment, on the other hand, typically 

comprises a succession of harassing acts, each of which 

“may not be actionable on its own.” In addition, a hostile 

work environment claim “cannot be said to occur on any 

particular day.” Id., at 115–116. In other words, the 

actionable wrong is the environment, not the individual 

acts that, taken together, create the environment.7 

Contrary to the dissent’s assertion, post, at 6–7, what 

Ledbetter alleged was not a single wrong consisting of a 

succession of acts.  Instead, she alleged a series of discrete 

discriminatory acts, see Brief for Petitioner 13, 15 (argu- 

ing that payment of each paycheck constituted a separate 


Moreover, the proposed hostile salary environment claim would go 

far beyond Morgan’s limits. Morgan still required at least some of the 

discriminatorily-motivated acts predicate to a hostile work environment 

claim to occur within the charging period.  536 U. S., at 117 (“Provided 

that an act contributing to the claim occurs within the filing period, the 

entire time period of the hostile environment may be considered by a 

court” (emphasis added)).  But the dissent would permit claims where 

no one acted in any way with an improper motive during the charging 

period. Post, at 7, 16. 


Opinion of the Court 

violation of Title VII), each of which was independently 

identifiable and actionable, and Morgan is perfectly clear 

that when an employee alleges “serial violations,” i.e., a 

series of actionable wrongs, a timely EEOC charge must 

be filed with respect to each discrete alleged violation. 536 

U. S., at 113. 

While this fundamental misinterpretation of Morgan is 

alone sufficient to show that the dissent’s approach must 

be rejected, it should also be noted that the dissent is coy 

as to whether it would apply the same rule to all pay 

discrimination claims or whether it would limit the rule to 

cases like Ledbetter’s, in which multiple discriminatory 

pay decisions are alleged.  The dissent relies on the fact 

that Ledbetter was allegedly subjected to a series of dis- 

criminatory pay decisions over a period of time, and the 

dissent suggests that she did not realize for some time 

that she had been victimized.  But not all pay cases share 

these characteristics. 

If, as seems likely, the dissent would apply the same 

rule in all pay cases, then, if a single discriminatory pay 

decision made 20 years ago continued to affect an em- 

ployee’s pay today, the dissent would presumably hold 

that the employee could file a timely EEOC charge today. 

And the dissent would presumably allow this even if the 

employee had full knowledge of all the circumstances 

relating to the 20-year-old decision at the time it was 

made.8  The dissent, it appears, proposes that we adopt a 

special rule for pay cases based on the particular charac- 


The dissent admits as much, responding only that an employer 

could resort to equitable doctrines such as laches. Post, at 16. But 

first, as we have noted, Congress has already determined that defense 

to be insufficient.  Supra, at 13.  Second, it is far from clear that a suit 

filed under the dissent’s theory, alleging that a paycheck paid recently 

within the charging period was itself a freestanding violation of Title 

VII because it reflected the effects of 20-year-old discrimination, would 

even be barred by laches. 

21 Cite as: 550 U. S. ____ (2007) 

Opinion of the Court 

teristics of one case that is certainly not representative of 

all pay cases and may not even be typical. We refuse to 

take that approach. 


In addition to the arguments previously discussed, 

Ledbetter relies largely on analogies to other statutory 

regimes and on extrastatutory policy arguments to sup- 

port her “paycheck accrual rule.” 

Ledbetter places significant weight on the EPA, which 

was enacted contemporaneously with Title VII and prohib- 

its paying unequal wages for equal work because of sex. 

29 U. S. C. §206(d).  Stating that “the lower courts rou- 

tinely hear [EPA] claims challenging pay disparities that 

first arose outside the limitations period,” Ledbetter sug- 

gests that we should hold that Title VII is violated each 

time an employee receives a paycheck that reflects past 

discrimination. Brief for Petitioner 34–35. 

The simple answer to this argument is that the EPA 

and Title VII are not the same. In particular, the EPA 

does not require the filing of a charge with the EEOC or 

proof of intentional discrimination.  See §206(d)(1) (asking 

only whether the alleged inequality resulted from “any 

other factor other than sex”).  Ledbetter originally as- 

serted an EPA claim, but that claim was dismissed by the 

District Court and is not before us.  If Ledbetter had pur- 

sued her EPA claim, she would not face the Title VII 

obstacles that she now confronts.9 


The Magistrate Judge recommended dismissal of Ledbetter’s EPA 

claim on the ground that Goodyear had demonstrated that the pay 

disparity resulted from Ledbetter’s consistently weak performance, not 

her sex.  App. to Pet. for Cert. 71a–77a.  The Magistrate Judge also 

recommended dismissing the Title VII disparate-pay claim on the same 

basis.  Id., at 65a–69a.  Ledbetter objected to the Magistrate Judge’s 

disposition of the Title VII and EPA claims, arguing that the Magis-


Opinion of the Court 

Ledbetter’s appeal to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 

1938 (FLSA) is equally unavailing.  Stating that it is “well 

established that the statute of limitations for violations of 

the minimum wage and overtime provisions of the [FLSA] 

runs anew with each paycheck,” Brief for Petitioner 35, 

Ledbetter urges that the same should be true in a Title 

VII pay case. Again, however, Ledbetter’s argument 

overlooks the fact that an FLSA minimum wage or over- 

time claim does not require proof of a specific intent to 

discriminate. See 29 U. S. C. §207 (establishing overtime 

rules); cf. §255(a) (establishing 2-year statute of limita- 

tions for FLSA claims, except for claims of a “willful viola- 

tion,” which may be commenced within 3 years). 

Ledbetter is on firmer ground in suggesting that we look 

to cases arising under the National Labor Relations Act 

(NLRA) since the NLRA provided a model for Title VII’s 

remedial provisions and, like Title VII, requires the filing 

of a timely administrative charge (with the National Labor 

Relations Board) before suit may be maintained. Lorance, 

490 U. S., at 909; Ford Motor Co. v. EEOC, 458 U. S. 219, 

226, n. 8 (1982). Cf. 29 U. S. C. §160(b) (“[N]o complaint 

shall issue based upon any unfair labor practice occurring 

more than six months prior to the filing of the charge with 

the Board”). 

Ledbetter argues that the NLRA’s 6-month statute of 

limitations begins anew for each paycheck reflecting a 

prior violation of the statute, but our precedents suggest 


trate Judge had improperly resolved a disputed factual issue.  See 

Plaintiff’s Objections to Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommenda- 

tion, 1 Record in No. 03–15246–G (CA11), Doc. 32.  The District Court 

sustained this objection as to the “disparate pay” claim, but without 

specifically mentioning the EPA claim, which had been dismissed by 

the Magistrate Judge on the same basis.  See App. to Pet. for Cert. 43a– 

44a. While the record is not entirely clear, it appears that at this point 

Ledbetter elected to abandon her EPA claim, proceeding to trial with 

only the Title VII disparate-pay claim, thus giving rise to the dispute 

the Court must now resolve. 

23 Cite as: 550 U. S. ____ (2007) 

Opinion of the Court 

otherwise. In Machinists v. NLRB, 362 U. S. 411, 416–417 

(1960), we held that “where conduct occurring within the 

limitations period can be charged to be an unfair labor 

practice only through reliance on an earlier unfair labor 

practice[,] the use of the earlier unfair labor practice 

[merely] serves to cloak with illegality that which was 

otherwise lawful.” This interpretation corresponds closely 

to our analysis in Evans and Ricks and supports our hold- 

ing in the present case. 

Ledbetter, finally, makes a variety of policy arguments 

in favor of giving the alleged victims of pay discrimination 

more time before they are required to file a charge with 

the EEOC.  Among other things, she claims that pay 

discrimination is harder to detect than other forms of 

employment discrimination.10 

We are not in a position to evaluate Ledbetter’s policy 

arguments, and it is not our prerogative to change the way 

in which Title VII balances the interests of aggrieved 

employees against the interest in encouraging the “prompt 

processing of all charges of employment discrimination,” 

Mohasco, 447 U. S., at 825, and the interest in repose. 

Ledbetter’s policy arguments for giving special treat- 

ment to pay claims find no support in the statute and are 

inconsistent with our precedents.11  We apply the statute 



We have previously declined to address whether Title VII suits are 

amenable to a discovery rule.  National Railroad Passenger Corporation 

v. Morgan, 536 U. S. 101, 114, n. 7 (2002).  Because Ledbetter does not 

argue that such a rule would change the outcome in her case, we have 

no occasion to address this issue. 


Ledbetter argues that the EEOC’s endorsement of her approach in 

its Compliance Manual and in administrative adjudications merits 

deference. But we have previously declined to extend Chevron defer- 

ence to the Compliance Manual, Morgan, supra, at 111, n. 6, and 

similarly decline to defer to the EEOC’s adjudicatory positions.  The 

EEOC’s views in question are based on its misreading of Bazemore. 



Opinion of the Court 

as written, and this means that any unlawful employment 

practice, including those involving compensation, must be 

presented to the EEOC within the period prescribed by 


* * * 

For these reasons, the judgment of the Court of Appeals 

for the Eleventh Circuit is affirmed. 

It is so ordered. 


See, e.g., Amft v. Mineta, No. 07A40116, 2006 WL 985183, *5 (EEOC 

Office of Fed. Operations, Apr. 6, 2006); Albritton v. Postmaster Gen- 

eral, No. 01A44063, 2004 WL 2983682, *2 (EEOC Office of Fed. Opera- 

tions, Dec. 17, 2004).  Agencies have no special claim to deference in 

their interpretation of our decisions.  Reno v. Bossier Parish School Bd., 

528 U. S. 320, 336, n. 5 (2000).  Nor do we see reasonable ambiguity in 

the statute itself, which makes no distinction between compensation 

and other sorts of claims and which clearly requires that discrete 

employment actions alleged to be unlawful be motivated “because of 

such individual’s . . . sex.”  42 U. S. C. §2000e–a(a)(1). 



1 Cite as: 550 U. S. ____ (2007) 

GINSBURG, J., dissenting 


No. 05–1074 









[May 29, 2007] 



JUSTICE SOUTER, and JUSTICE BREYER join, dissenting. 

Lilly Ledbetter was a supervisor at Goodyear Tire and 

Rubber’s plant in Gadsden, Alabama, from 1979 until her 

retirement in 1998. For most of those years, she worked 

as an area manager, a position largely occupied by men. 

Initially, Ledbetter’s salary was in line with the salaries of 

men performing substantially similar work. Over time, 

however, her pay slipped in comparison to the pay of male 

area managers with equal or less seniority.  By the end of 

1997, Ledbetter was the only woman working as an area 

manager and the pay discrepancy between Ledbetter and 

her 15 male counterparts was stark: Ledbetter was paid 

$3,727 per month; the lowest paid male area manager 

received $4,286 per month, the highest paid, $5,236.  See 

421 F. 3d 1169, 1174 (CA11 2005); Brief for Petitioner 4. 

Ledbetter launched charges of discrimination before the 

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 

March 1998.  Her formal administrative complaint speci- 

fied that, in violation of Title VII, Goodyear paid her a 

discriminatorily low salary because of her sex. See 42 

U. S. C. §2000e–2(a)(1) (rendering it unlawful for an em- 

ployer “to discriminate against any individual with respect 

to [her] compensation . . . because of such individual’s . . . 

sex”). That charge was eventually tried to a jury, which 


GINSBURG, J., dissenting 

found it “more likely than not that [Goodyear] paid 

[Ledbetter] a[n] unequal salary because of her sex.”  App. 

102. In accord with the jury’s liability determination, the 

District Court entered judgment for Ledbetter for backpay 

and damages, plus counsel fees and costs. 

The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed. 

Relying on Goodyear’s system of annual merit-based 

raises, the court held that Ledbetter’s claim, in relevant 

part, was time barred.  421 F. 3d, at 1171, 1182–1183. 

Title VII provides that a charge of discrimination “shall be 

filed within [180] days after the alleged unlawful employ- 

ment practice occurred.”  42 U. S. C. §2000e–5(e)(1).1 

Ledbetter charged, and proved at trial, that within the 

180-day period, her pay was substantially less than the 

pay of men doing the same work. Further, she introduced 

evidence sufficient to establish that discrimination against 

female managers at the Gadsden plant, not performance 

inadequacies on her part, accounted for the pay differen- 

tial. See, e.g., App. 36–47, 51–68, 82–87, 90–98, 112–113. 

That evidence was unavailing, the Eleventh Circuit held, 

and the Court today agrees, because it was incumbent on 

Ledbetter to file charges year-by-year, each time Goodyear 

failed to increase her salary commensurate with the sala- 

ries of male peers.  Any annual pay decision not contested 

immediately (within 180 days), the Court affirms, becomes 

grandfathered, a fait accompli beyond the province of Title 

VII ever to repair. 

The Court’s insistence on immediate contest overlooks 

common characteristics of pay discrimination.  Pay dis- 

parities often occur, as they did in Ledbetter’s case, in 

small increments; cause to suspect that discrimination is 


If the complainant has first instituted proceedings with a state or 

local agency, the filing period is extended to 300 days or 30 days after 

the denial of relief by the agency. 42 U. S. C. §2000e–5(e)(1).  Because 

the 180-day period applies to Ledbetter’s case, that figure will be used 

throughout.  See ante, at 3, 4. 

3 Cite as: 550 U. S. ____ (2007) 

GINSBURG, J., dissenting 

at work develops only over time. Comparative pay infor- 

mation, moreover, is often hidden from the employee’s 

view. Employers may keep under wraps the pay differen- 

tials maintained among supervisors, no less the reasons 

for those differentials. Small initial discrepancies may not 

be seen as meet for a federal case, particularly when the 

employee, trying to succeed in a nontraditional environ- 

ment, is averse to making waves. 

Pay disparities are thus significantly different from 

adverse actions “such as termination, failure to promote, 

. . . or refusal to hire,” all involving fully communicated 

discrete acts, “easy to identify” as discriminatory.  See 

National Railroad Passenger Corporation v. Morgan, 536 

U. S. 101, 114 (2002).  It is only when the disparity be- 

comes apparent and sizable, e.g., through future raises 

calculated as a percentage of current salaries, that an 

employee in Ledbetter’s situation is likely to comprehend 

her plight and, therefore, to complain. Her initial readi- 

ness to give her employer the benefit of the doubt should 

not preclude her from later challenging the then current 

and continuing payment of a wage depressed on account of 

her sex. 

On questions of time under Title VII, we have identified 

as the critical inquiries: “What constitutes an ‘unlawful 

employment practice’ and when has that practice ‘oc- 

curred’?” Id., at 110. Our precedent suggests, and lower 

courts have overwhelmingly held, that the unlawful prac- 

tice is the current payment of salaries infected by gender- 

based (or race-based) discrimination—a practice that 

occurs whenever a paycheck delivers less to a woman than 

to a similarly situated man.  See Bazemore v. Friday, 478 

U. S. 385, 395 (1986) (Brennan, J., joined by all other 

Members of the Court, concurring in part). 

Title VII proscribes as an “unlawful employment prac-


GINSBURG, J., dissenting 

tice” discrimination “against any individual with respect 

to his compensation . . . because of such individual’s race, 

color, religion, sex, or national origin.”  42 U. S. C. §2000e– 

2(a)(1). An individual seeking to challenge an employment 

practice under this proscription must file a charge with 

the EEOC within 180 days “after the alleged unlawful 

employment practice occurred.”  §2000e–5(e)(1).  See ante, 

at 4; supra, at 2, n. 1. 

 Ledbetter’s petition presents a question important to the 

sound application of Title VII: What activity qualifies as 

an unlawful employment practice in cases of discrimina- 

tion with respect to compensation.  One answer identifies 

the pay-setting decision, and that decision alone, as the 

unlawful practice.  Under this view, each particular sal- 

ary-setting decision is discrete from prior and subsequent 

decisions, and must be challenged within 180 days on pain 

of forfeiture. Another response counts both the pay- 

setting decision and the actual payment of a discrimina- 

tory wage as unlawful practices.  Under this approach, 

each payment of a wage or salary infected by sex-based 

discrimination constitutes an unlawful employment prac- 

tice; prior decisions, outside the 180-day charge-filing 

period, are not themselves actionable, but they are rele- 

vant in determining the lawfulness of conduct within the 

period. The Court adopts the first view, see ante, at 1, 4, 

9, but the second is more faithful to precedent, more in 

tune with the realities of the workplace, and more respect- 

ful of Title VII’s remedial purpose. 

In Bazemore, we unanimously held that an employer, 

the North Carolina Agricultural Extension Service, com- 

mitted an unlawful employment practice each time it paid 

black employees less than similarly situated white em- 

ployees. 478 U. S., at 395 (opinion of Brennan, J.).  Before 

1965, the Extension Service was divided into two 

5 Cite as: 550 U. S. ____ (2007) 

GINSBURG, J., dissenting 

branches: a white branch and a “Negro branch.”  Id., at 

390. Employees in the “Negro branch” were paid less than 

their white counterparts.  In response to the Civil Rights 

Act of 1964, which included Title VII, the State merged 

the two branches into a single organization, made adjust- 

ments to reduce the salary disparity, and began giving 

annual raises based on nondiscriminatory factors.  Id., at 

390–391, 394–395. Nonetheless, “some pre-existing salary 

disparities continued to linger on.” Id., at 394 (internal 

quotation marks omitted).  We rejected the Court of Ap- 

peals’ conclusion that the plaintiffs could not prevail be- 

cause the lingering disparities were simply a continuing 

effect of a decision lawfully made prior to the effective date 

of Title VII. See id., at 395–396.  Rather, we reasoned, 

“[e]ach week’s paycheck that delivers less to a black than 

to a similarly situated white is a wrong actionable under 

Title VII.” Id., at 395. Paychecks perpetuating past dis- 

crimination, we thus recognized, are actionable not simply 

because they are “related” to a decision made outside the 

charge-filing period, cf. ante, at 17, but because they dis- 

criminate anew each time they issue, see Bazemore, 478 

U. S., at 395–396, and n. 6; Morgan, 536 U. S., at 111–112. 

 Subsequently, in Morgan, we set apart, for purposes of 

Title VII’s timely filing requirement, unlawful employ- 

ment actions of two kinds: “discrete acts” that are “easy to 

identify” as discriminatory, and acts that recur and are 

cumulative in impact. See id., at 110, 113–115. “[A] 

[d]iscrete ac[t] such as termination, failure to promote, 

denial of transfer, or refusal to hire,” id., at 114, we ex- 

plained, “‘occur[s]’ on the day that it ‘happen[s].’  A party, 

therefore, must file a charge within . . . 180 . . . days of the 

date of the act or lose the ability to recover for it.”  Id., at 

110; see id., at 113 (“[D]iscrete discriminatory acts are not 

actionable if time barred, even when they are related to 

acts alleged in timely filed charges.  Each discrete dis- 

criminatory act starts a new clock for filing charges alleg-


GINSBURG, J., dissenting 

ing that act.”). 

“[D]ifferent in kind from discrete acts,” we made clear, 

are “claims . . . based on the cumulative effect of individ- 

ual acts.” Id., at 115. The Morgan decision placed hostile 

work environment claims in that category.  “Their very 

nature involves repeated conduct.” Ibid. “The unlawful 

employment practice” in hostile work environment claims, 

“cannot be said to occur on any particular day.  It occurs 

over a series of days or perhaps years and, in direct con- 

trast to discrete acts, a single act of harassment may not 

be actionable on its own.” Ibid. (internal quotation marks 

omitted). The persistence of the discriminatory conduct 

both indicates that management should have known of its 

existence and produces a cognizable harm.  Ibid. Because 

the very nature of the hostile work environment claim 

involves repeated conduct, 

“[i]t does not matter, for purposes of the statute, that 

some of the component acts of the hostile work envi- 

ronment fall outside the statutory time period. Pro- 

vided that an act contributing to the claim occurs 

within the filing period, the entire time period of the 

hostile environment may be considered by a court for 

the purposes of determining liability.”  Id., at 117. 

Consequently, although the unlawful conduct began in the 

past, “a charge may be filed at a later date and still en- 

compass the whole.” Ibid. 

Pay disparities, of the kind Ledbetter experienced, have 

a closer kinship to hostile work environment claims than 

to charges of a single episode of discrimination. 

Ledbetter’s claim, resembling Morgan’s, rested not on one 

particular paycheck, but on “the cumulative effect of indi- 

vidual acts.” See id., at 115.  See also Brief for Petitioner 

13, 15–17, and n. 9 (analogizing Ledbetter’s claim to the 

recurring and cumulative harm at issue in Morgan); Reply 

Brief for Petitioner 13 (distinguishing pay discrimination 

7 Cite as: 550 U. S. ____ (2007) 

GINSBURG, J., dissenting 

from “easy to identify” discrete acts (internal quotation 

marks omitted)). She charged insidious discrimination 

building up slowly but steadily.  See Brief for Petitioner 5– 

8. Initially in line with the salaries of men performing 

substantially the same work, Ledbetter’s salary fell 15 to 

40 percent behind her male counterparts only after suc- 

cessive evaluations and percentage-based pay adjust- 

ments. See supra, at 1–2. Over time, she alleged and 

proved, the repetition of pay decisions undervaluing her 

work gave rise to the current discrimination of which she 

complained. Though component acts fell outside the 

charge-filing period, with each new paycheck, Goodyear 

contributed incrementally to the accumulating harm.  See 

Morgan, 536 U. S., at 117; Bazemore, 478 U. S., at 395– 

396; cf. Hanover Shoe, Inc. v. United Shoe Machinery 

Corp., 392 U. S. 481, 502, n. 15 (1968).2 

The realities of the workplace reveal why the discrimi- 

nation with respect to compensation that Ledbetter suf- 

fered does not fit within the category of singular discrete 

acts “easy to identify.”  A worker knows immediately if she 

is denied a promotion or transfer, if she is fired or refused 

employment.  And promotions, transfers, hirings, and 

firings are generally public events, known to co-workers. 

When an employer makes a decision of such open and 

definitive character, an employee can immediately seek 

out an explanation and evaluate it for pretext. Compensa- 

tion disparities, in contrast, are often hidden from sight. 


National Railroad Passenger Corporation v. Morgan, 536 U. S. 101, 

117 (2002), the Court emphasizes, required that “an act contributing to 

the claim occu[r] within the [charge-]filing period.”  Ante, at 19, and n. 7 

(emphasis deleted; internal quotation marks omitted).  Here, each 

paycheck within the filing period compounded the discrimination 

Ledbetter encountered, and thus contributed to the “actionable wrong,” 

i.e., the succession of acts composing the pattern of discriminatory pay, 

of which she complained. 


GINSBURG, J., dissenting 

It is not unusual, decisions in point illustrate, for man- 

agement to decline to publish employee pay levels, or for 

employees to keep private their own salaries.  See, e.g., 

Goodwin v. General Motors Corp., 275 F. 3d 1005, 1008– 

1009 (CA10 2002) (plaintiff did not know what her col- 

leagues earned until a printout listing of salaries appeared 

on her desk, seven years after her starting salary was set 

lower than her co-workers’ salaries); McMillan v. Massa- 

chusetts Soc. for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 140 

F. 3d 288, 296 (CA1 1998) (plaintiff worked for employer 

for years before learning of salary disparity published in a 

newspaper).3  Tellingly, as the record in this case bears 

out, Goodyear kept salaries confidential; employees had 

only limited access to information regarding their col- 

leagues’ earnings. App. 56–57, 89. 

The problem of concealed pay discrimination is particu- 

larly acute where the disparity arises not because the 

female employee is flatly denied a raise but because male 

counterparts are given larger raises.  Having received a 

pay increase, the female employee is unlikely to discern at 

once that she has experienced an adverse employment 

decision. She may have little reason even to suspect dis- 

crimination until a pattern develops incrementally and 

she ultimately becomes aware of the disparity.  Even if an 

employee suspects that the reason for a comparatively low 

raise is not performance but sex (or another protected 

ground), the amount involved may seem too small, or the 

employer’s intent too ambiguous, to make the issue imme- 

diately actionable—or winnable. 

Further separating pay claims from the discrete em- 


See also Bierman & Gely, “Love, Sex and Politics? Sure. Salary? No 

Way”: Workplace Social Norms and the Law, 25 Berkeley J. Emp. & 

Lab. L. 167, 168, 171 (2004) (one-third of private sector employers have 

adopted specific rules prohibiting employees from discussing their 

wages with co-workers; only one in ten employers has adopted a pay 

openness policy). 

9 Cite as: 550 U. S. ____ (2007) 

GINSBURG, J., dissenting 

ployment actions identified in Morgan, an employer gains 

from sex-based pay disparities in a way it does not from a 

discriminatory denial of promotion, hiring, or transfer. 

When a male employee is selected over a female for a 

higher level position, someone still gets the promotion and 

is paid a higher salary; the employer is not enriched. But 

when a woman is paid less than a similarly situated man, 

the employer reduces its costs each time the pay differen- 

tial is implemented.  Furthermore, decisions on promo- 

tions, like decisions installing seniority systems, often 

implicate the interests of third-party employees in a way 

that pay differentials do not. Cf. Teamsters v. United 

States, 431 U. S. 324, 352–353 (1977) (recognizing that 

seniority systems involve “vested . . . rights of employees” 

and concluding that Title VII was not intended to “destroy 

or water down” those rights).  Disparate pay, by contrast, 

can be remedied at any time solely at the expense of the 

employer who acts in a discriminatory fashion. 

In light of the significant differences between pay dis- 

parities and discrete employment decisions of the type 

identified in Morgan, the cases on which the Court relies 

hold no sway.  See ante, at 5–10 (discussing United Air 

Lines, Inc. v. Evans, 431 U. S. 553 (1977), Delaware State 

College v. Ricks, 449 U. S. 250 (1980), and Lorance v. 

AT&T Technologies, Inc., 490 U. S. 900 (1989)).  Evans 

and Ricks both involved a single, immediately identifiable 

act of discrimination: in Evans, a constructive discharge, 

431 U. S., at 554; in Ricks, a denial of tenure, 449 U. S., at 

252. In each case, the employee filed charges well after 

the discrete discriminatory act occurred: When United 

Airlines forced Evans to resign because of its policy bar- 

ring married female flight attendants, she filed no charge; 

only four years later, when Evans was rehired, did she 

allege that the airline’s former no-marriage rule was 


GINSBURG, J., dissenting 

unlawful and therefore should not operate to deny her 

seniority credit for her prior service.  See Evans, 431 U. S., 

at 554–557. Similarly, when Delaware State College 

denied Ricks tenure, he did not object until his terminal 

contract came to an end, one year later.  Ricks, 449 U. S., 

at 253–254, 257–258. No repetitive, cumulative discrimi- 

natory employment practice was at issue in either case. 

See Evans, 431 U. S., at 557–558; Ricks, 449 U. S., at 258.4 

Lorance is also inapposite, for, in this Court’s view, it 

too involved a one-time discrete act: the adoption of a new 

seniority system that “had its genesis in sex discrimina- 

tion.” See 490 U. S., at 902, 905 (internal quotation marks 

omitted). The Court’s extensive reliance on Lorance, ante, 

at 7–9, 14, 17–18, moreover, is perplexing for that decision 

is no longer effective: In the 1991 Civil Rights Act, Con- 

gress superseded Lorance’s holding.  §112, 105 Stat. 1079 

(codified as amended at 42 U. S. C. §2000e–5(e)(2)).  Re- 

pudiating our judgment that a facially neutral seniority 

system adopted with discriminatory intent must be chal- 

lenged immediately, Congress provided: 

“For purposes of this section, an unlawful employment 

practice occurs . . . when the seniority system is 

adopted, when an individual becomes subject to the 


The Court also relies on Machinists v. NLRB, 362 U. S. 411 (1960), 

which like Evans and Ricks, concerned a discrete act: the execution of a 

collective bargaining agreement containing a union security clause. 

362 U. S., at 412, 417.  In Machinists, it was undisputed that under the 

National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), a union and an employer may 

not agree to a union security clause “if at the time of original execution 

the union does not represent a majority of the employees in the [bar- 

gaining] unit.” Id., at 412–414, 417.  The complainants, however, failed 

to file a charge within the NLRA’s six-month charge filing period; 

instead, they filed charges 10 and 12 months after the execution of the 

agreement, objecting to its subsequent enforcement. See id., at 412, 

414. Thus, as in Evans and Ricks, but in contrast to Ledbetter’s case, 

the employment decision at issue was easily identifiable and occurred 

on a single day. 

11 Cite as: 550 U. S. ____ (2007) 

GINSBURG, J., dissenting 

seniority system, or when a person aggrieved is in- 

jured by the application of the seniority system or 

provision of the system.”  Ibid. 

Congress thus agreed with the dissenters in Lorance that 

“the harsh reality of [that] decision,” was “glaringly at 

odds with the purposes of Title VII.”  490 U. S., at 914 

(opinion of Marshall, J.).  See also §3, 105 Stat. 1071 (1991 

Civil Rights Act was designed “to respond to recent deci- 

sions of the Supreme Court by expanding the scope of 

relevant civil rights statutes in order to provide adequate 

protection to victims of discrimination”). 

True, §112 of the 1991 Civil Rights Act directly ad- 

dressed only seniority systems.  See ante, at 8, and n. 2. 

But Congress made clear (1) its view that this Court had 

unduly contracted the scope of protection afforded by Title 

VII and other civil rights statutes, and (2) its aim to gen- 

eralize the ruling in Bazemore. As the Senate Report 

accompanying the proposed Civil Rights Act of 1990, the 

precursor to the 1991 Act, explained: 

“Where, as was alleged in Lorance, an employer 

adopts a rule or decision with an unlawful discrimina- 

tory motive, each application of that rule or decision is 

a new violation of the law. In Bazemore . . ., for ex- 

ample, . . . the Supreme Court properly held that each 

application of th[e] racially motivated salary struc- 

ture, i.e., each new paycheck, constituted a distinct 

violation of Title VII.  Section 7(a)(2) generalizes the 

result correctly reached in Bazemore.” Civil Rights 

Act of 1990, S. Rep. No. 101–315, p. 54 (1990).5 

See also 137 Cong. Rec. 29046, 29047 (1991) (Sponsors’ 

Interpretative Memorandum) (“This legislation should be 

interpreted as disapproving the extension of [Lorance] to 


No Senate Report was submitted with the Civil Rights Act of 1991, 

which was in all material respects identical to the proposed 1990 Act. 


GINSBURG, J., dissenting 

contexts outside of seniority systems.”).  But cf. ante, at 

18 (relying on Lorance to conclude that “when an em- 

ployer issues paychecks pursuant to a system that is 

facially nondiscriminatory and neutrally applied” a new 

Title VII violation does not occur (internal quotation 

marks omitted)). 

Until today, in the more than 15 years since Congress 

amended Title VII, the Court had not once relied upon 

Lorance. It is mistaken to do so now.  Just as Congress’ 

“goals in enacting Title VII . . . never included conferring 

absolute immunity on discriminatorily adopted seniority 

systems that survive their first [180] days,” 490 U. S., at 

914 (Marshall, J., dissenting), Congress never intended to 

immunize forever discriminatory pay differentials unchal- 

lenged within 180 days of their adoption.  This assessment 

gains weight when one comprehends that even a relatively 

minor pay disparity will expand exponentially over an 

employee’s working life if raises are set as a percentage of 

prior pay. 

A clue to congressional intent can be found in Title VII’s 

backpay provision.  The statute expressly provides that 

backpay may be awarded for a period of up to two years 

before the discrimination charge is filed.  42 U. S. C. 

§2000e–5(g)(1) (“Back pay liability shall not accrue from a 

date more than two years prior to the filing of a charge 

with the Commission.”).  This prescription indicates that 

Congress contemplated challenges to pay discrimination 

commencing before, but continuing into, the 180-day filing 

period. See Morgan, 536 U. S., at 119 (“If Congress in- 

tended to limit liability to conduct occurring in the period 

within which the party must file the charge, it seems 

unlikely that Congress would have allowed recovery for 

two years of backpay.”).  As we recognized in Morgan, “the 

fact that Congress expressly limited the amount of recov- 

erable damages elsewhere to a particular time period [i.e., 

two years] indicates that the [180-day] timely filing provi-

13 Cite as: 550 U. S. ____ (2007) 

GINSBURG, J., dissenting 

sion was not meant to serve as a specific limitation . . . 

[on] the conduct that may be considered.”  Ibid. 

In tune with the realities of wage discrimination, the 

Courts of Appeals have overwhelmingly judged as a pre- 

sent violation the payment of wages infected by discrimi- 

nation: Each paycheck less than the amount payable had 

the employer adhered to a nondiscriminatory compensa- 

tion regime, courts have held, constitutes a cognizable 

harm. See, e.g., Forsyth v. Federation Employment and 

Guidance Serv., 409 F. 3d 565, 573 (CA2 2005) (“Any 

paycheck given within the [charge-filing] period . . . would 

be actionable, even if based on a discriminatory pay scale 

set up outside of the statutory period.”); Shea v. Rice, 409 

F. 3d 448, 452–453 (CADC 2005) (“[An] employer com- 

mit[s] a separate unlawful employment practice each time 

he pa[ys] one employee less than another for a discrimina- 

tory reason” (citing Bazemore, 478 U. S., at 396)); Goodwin 

v. General Motors Corp., 275 F. 3d 1005, 1009–1010 (CA10 

2002) (“[Bazemore] has taught a crucial distinction with 

respect to discriminatory disparities in pay, establishing 

that a discriminatory salary is not merely a lingering 

effect of past discrimination—instead it is itself a continu- 

ally recurring violation. . . . [E]ach race-based discrimina- 

tory salary payment constitutes a fresh violation of Title 

VII.” (footnote omitted)); Anderson v. Zubieta, 180 F. 3d 

329, 335 (CADC 1999) (“The Courts of Appeals have re- 

peatedly reached the . . . conclusion” that pay discrimina- 

tion is “actionable upon receipt of each paycheck.”); accord 

Hildebrandt v. Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources, 347 

F. 3d 1014, 1025–1029 (CA7 2003); Cardenas v. Massey, 

269 F. 3d 251, 257 (CA3 2001); Ashley v. Boyle’s Famous 

Corned Beef Co., 66 F. 3d 164, 167–168 (CA8 1995) (en 

banc); Brinkley-Obu v. Hughes Training, Inc., 36 F. 3d 

336, 347–349 (CA4 1994); Gibbs v. Pierce County Law 


GINSBURG, J., dissenting 

Enforcement Support Agency, 785 F. 2d 1396, 1399–1400 

(CA9 1986). 

Similarly in line with the real-world characteristics of 

pay discrimination, the EEOC—the federal agency re- 

sponsible for enforcing Title VII, see, e.g., 42 U. S. C. 

§§2000e–5(f), 2000e–12(a)—has interpreted the Act to 

permit employees to challenge disparate pay each time it 

is received. The EEOC’s Compliance Manual provides 

that “repeated occurrences of the same discriminatory 

employment action, such as discriminatory paychecks, can 

be challenged as long as one discriminatory act occurred 

within the charge filing period.”  2 EEOC Compliance 

Manual §2–IV–C(1)(a), p. 605:0024, and n. 183 (2006); cf. 

id., §10–III, p. 633:0002 (Title VII requires an employer to 

eliminate pay disparities attributable to a discriminatory 

system, even if that system has been discontinued). 

The EEOC has given effect to its interpretation in a 

series of administrative decisions.  See Albritton v. Potter, 

No. 01A44063, 2004 WL 2983682, *2 (EEOC Office of Fed. 

Operations, Dec. 17, 2004) (although disparity arose and 

employee became aware of the disparity outside the 

charge-filing period, claim was not time barred because 

“[e]ach paycheck that complainant receives which is less 

than that of similarly situated employees outside of her 

protected classes could support a claim under Title VII if 

discrimination is found to be the reason for the pay dis- 

crepancy.” (citing Bazemore, 478 U. S., at 396)).  See also 

Bynum-Doles v. Winter, No. 01A53973, 2006 WL 2096290 

(EEOC Office of Fed. Operations, July 18, 2006); Ward v. 

Potter, No. 01A60047, 2006 WL 721992 (EEOC Office of 

Fed. Operations, Mar. 10, 2006).  And in this very case, 

the EEOC urged the Eleventh Circuit to recognize that 

Ledbetter’s failure to challenge any particular pay-setting 

decision when that decision was made “does not deprive 

her of the right to seek relief for discriminatory paychecks 

she received in 1997 and 1998.”  Brief of EEOC in Support 

15 Cite as: 550 U. S. ____ (2007) 

GINSBURG, J., dissenting 

of Petition for Rehearing and Suggestion for Rehearing En 

Banc, in No. 03–15264–GG (CA11), p. 14 (hereinafter 

EEOC Brief) (citing Morgan, 536 U. S., at 113).6 


The Court asserts that treating pay discrimination as a 

discrete act, limited to each particular pay-setting deci- 

sion, is necessary to “protec[t] employers from the burden 

of defending claims arising from employment decisions 

that are long past.” Ante, at 11 (quoting Ricks, 449 U. S., 

at 256–257). But the discrimination of which Ledbetter 

complained is not long past.  As she alleged, and as the 

jury found, Goodyear continued to treat Ledbetter differ- 

ently because of sex each pay period, with mounting harm. 

Allowing employees to challenge discrimination “that 

extend[s] over long periods of time,” into the charge-filing 

period, we have previously explained, “does not leave 

employers defenseless” against unreasonable or prejudi- 

cial delay. Morgan, 536 U. S., at 121.  Employers disad- 

vantaged by such delay may raise various defenses. Id., at 

122. Doctrines such as “waiver, estoppel, and equitable 

tolling” “allow us to honor Title VII’s remedial purpose 

without negating the particular purpose of the filing re- 

quirement, to give prompt notice to the employer.”  Id., at 

121 (quoting Zipes v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 455 U. S. 

385, 398 (1982)); see 536 U. S., at 121 (defense of laches 

may be invoked to block an employee’s suit “if he unrea- 


The Court dismisses the EEOC’s considerable “experience and in- 

formed judgment,” Firefighters v. Cleveland, 478 U. S. 501, 518 (1986) 

(internal quotation marks omitted), as unworthy of any deference in 

this case, see ante, at 23–24, n. 11.  But the EEOC’s interpretations 

mirror workplace realities and merit at least respectful attention.  In 

any event, the level of deference due the EEOC here is an academic 

question, for the agency’s conclusion that Ledbetter’s claim is not time 

barred is the best reading of the statute even if the Court “were inter- 

preting [Title VII] from scratch.” See Edelman v. Lynchburg College, 

535 U. S. 106, 114 (2002); see supra, at 4–14. 


GINSBURG, J., dissenting 

sonably delays in filing [charges] and as a result harms 

the defendant”); EEOC Brief 15 (“[I]f Ledbetter unrea- 

sonably delayed challenging an earlier decision, and that 

delay significantly impaired Goodyear’s ability to defend 

itself . . . Goodyear can raise a defense of laches. . . .”).7 

In a last-ditch argument, the Court asserts that this 

dissent would allow a plaintiff to sue on a single decision 

made 20 years ago “even if the employee had full knowl- 

edge of all the circumstances relating to the . . . decision at 

the time it was made.”  Ante, at 20.  It suffices to point out 

that the defenses just noted would make such a suit fool- 

hardy.  No sensible judge would tolerate such inexcusable 

neglect. See Morgan, 536 U. S., at 121 (“In such cases, the 

federal courts have the discretionary power . . . to locate a 

just result in light of the circumstances peculiar to the 

case.” (internal quotation marks omitted)). 

Ledbetter, the Court observes, ante, at 21, n. 9, dropped 

an alternative remedy she could have pursued: Had she 

persisted in pressing her claim under the Equal Pay Act of 

1963 (EPA), 29 U. S. C. §206(d), she would not have en- 

countered a time bar.8  See ante, at 21 (“If Ledbetter had 

pursued her EPA claim, she would not face the Title VII 

obstacles that she now confronts.”); cf. Corning Glass 

Works v. Brennan, 417 U. S. 188, 208–210 (1974).  Nota- 


Further, as the EEOC appropriately recognized in its brief to the 

Eleventh Circuit, Ledbetter’s failure to challenge particular pay raises 

within the charge-filing period “significantly limit[s] the relief she can 

seek.  By waiting to file a charge, Ledbetter lost her opportunity to seek 

relief for any discriminatory paychecks she received between 1979 and 

late 1997.”  EEOC Brief 14.  See also supra, at 12–13. 

Under the EPA 29 U. S. C. §206(d), which is subject to the Fair La- 

bor Standards Act’s time prescriptions, a claim charging denial of equal 

pay accrues anew with each paycheck.  1 B. Lindemann & P. 

Grossman, Employment Discrimination Law 529 (3d ed. 1996); cf. 29 

U. S. C. §255(a) (prescribing a two-year statute of limitations for 

violations generally, but a three-year limitation period for willful 


17 Cite as: 550 U. S. ____ (2007) 

GINSBURG, J., dissenting 

bly, the EPA provides no relief when the pay discrimina- 

tion charged is based on race, religion, national origin, 

age, or disability.  Thus, in truncating the Title VII rule 

this Court announced in Bazemore, the Court does not 

disarm female workers from achieving redress for unequal 

pay, but it does impede racial and other minorities from 

gaining similar relief.9 

Furthermore, the difference between the EPA’s prohibi- 

tion against paying unequal wages and Title VII’s ban on 

discrimination with regard to compensation is not as large 

as the Court’s opinion might suggest.  See ante, at 21.  The 

key distinction is that Title VII requires a showing of 

intent. In practical effect, “if the trier of fact is in equi- 

poise about whether the wage differential is motivated by 

gender discrimination,” Title VII compels a verdict for the 

employer, while the EPA compels a verdict for the plain- 

tiff. 2 C. Sullivan, M. Zimmer, & R. White, Employment 

Discrimination: Law and Practice §7.08[F][3], p. 532 (3d 

ed. 2002). In this case, Ledbetter carried the burden of 

persuading the jury that the pay disparity she suffered 

was attributable to intentional sex discrimination.  See 

supra, at 1–2; infra, this page and 18. 


To show how far the Court has strayed from interpreta- 

tion of Title VII with fidelity to the Act’s core purpose, I 

return to the evidence Ledbetter presented at trial. 

Ledbetter proved to the jury the following: She was a 

member of a protected class; she performed work substan- 


For example, under today’s decision, if a black supervisor initially 

received the same salary as his white colleagues, but annually received 

smaller raises, there would be no right to sue under Title VII outside 

the 180-day window following each annual salary change, however 

strong the cumulative evidence of discrimination might be.  The Court 

would thus force plaintiffs, in many cases, to sue too soon to prevail, 

while cutting them off as time barred once the pay differential is large 

enough to enable them to mount a winnable case. 


GINSBURG, J., dissenting 

tially equal to work of the dominant class (men); she was 

compensated less for that work; and the disparity was 

attributable to gender-based discrimination. See supra, at 


Specifically, Ledbetter’s evidence demonstrated that her 

current pay was discriminatorily low due to a long series 

of decisions reflecting Goodyear’s pervasive discrimination 

against women managers in general and Ledbetter in 

particular.  Ledbetter’s former supervisor, for example, 

admitted to the jury that Ledbetter’s pay, during a par- 

ticular one-year period, fell below Goodyear’s minimum 

threshold for her position. App. 93–97. Although Good- 

year claimed the pay disparity was due to poor perform- 

ance, the supervisor acknowledged that Ledbetter received 

a “Top Performance Award” in 1996.  Id., at 90–93.  The 

jury also heard testimony that another supervisor—who 

evaluated Ledbetter in 1997 and whose evaluation led to 

her most recent raise denial—was openly biased against 

women. Id., at 46, 77–82.  And two women who had previ- 

ously worked as managers at the plant told the jury they 

had been subject to pervasive discrimination and were 

paid less than their male counterparts.  One was paid less 

than the men she supervised.  Id., at 51–68. Ledbetter 

herself testified about the discriminatory animus conveyed 

to her by plant officials. Toward the end of her career, for 

instance, the plant manager told Ledbetter that the “plant 

did not need women, that [women] didn’t help it, [and] 

caused problems.” Id., at 36.10  After weighing all the 

evidence, the jury found for Ledbetter, concluding that the 

pay disparity was due to intentional discrimination. 

Yet, under the Court’s decision, the discrimination 

Ledbetter proved is not redressable under Title VII. Each 



Given this abundant evidence, the Court cannot tenably maintain 

that Ledbetter’s case “turned principally on the misconduct of a single 

Goodyear supervisor.”  See ante, at 12–13, n. 4. 

19 Cite as: 550 U. S. ____ (2007) 

GINSBURG, J., dissenting 

and every pay decision she did not immediately challenge 

wiped the slate clean. Consideration may not be given to 

the cumulative effect of a series of decisions that, together, 

set her pay well below that of every male area manager. 

Knowingly carrying past pay discrimination forward must 

be treated as lawful conduct.  Ledbetter may not be com- 

pensated for the lower pay she was in fact receiving when 

she complained to the EEOC. Nor, were she still em- 

ployed by Goodyear, could she gain, on the proof she pre- 

sented at trial, injunctive relief requiring, prospectively, 

her receipt of the same compensation men receive for 

substantially similar work.  The Court’s approbation of 

these consequences is totally at odds with the robust 

protection against workplace discrimination Congress 

intended Title VII to secure. See, e.g., Teamsters v. United 

States, 431 U. S., at 348 (“The primary purpose of Title VII 

was to assure equality of employment opportunities and to 

eliminate . . . discriminatory practices and devices . . . .” 

(internal quotation marks omitted)); Albemarle Paper Co. 

v. Moody, 422 U. S. 405, 418 (1975) (“It is . . . the purpose 

of Title VII to make persons whole for injuries suffered on 

account of unlawful employment discrimination.”). 

This is not the first time the Court has ordered a 

cramped interpretation of Title VII, incompatible with the 

statute’s broad remedial purpose.  See supra, at 10–12. 

See also Wards Cove Packing Co. v. Atonio, 490 U. S. 642 

(1989) (superseded in part by the Civil Rights Act of 1991); 

Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, 490 U. S. 228 (1989) (plural- 

ity opinion) (same); 1 B. Lindemann & P. Grossman, Em- 

ployment Discrimination Law 2 (3d ed. 1996) (“A spate of 

Court decisions in the late 1980s drew congressional fire 

and resulted in demands for legislative change[,]” culmi- 

nating in the 1991 Civil Rights Act (footnote omitted)). 

Once again, the ball is in Congress’ court.  As in 1991, the 

Legislature may act to correct this Court’s parsimonious 

reading of Title VII. 



GINSBURG, J., dissenting 

* * * 

For the reasons stated, I would hold that Ledbetter’s 

claim is not time barred and would reverse the Eleventh 

Circuit’s judgment.