The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bucklo, District Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Beverly Bowers worked for the Radiological Society of America (the
"Society") from 1994 to 1998, when she was fired. She claims that Dana
Davis, her immediate supervisor, sexually harassed her on and off
throughout the entire period, making passes that Bowers rejected,
brushing against her physically in inappropriate ways, using foul and
graphic sexual language, cracking dirty jokes and so forth Bowers was
fired on February 27, 1998. On May 1, 1998, she filed discrimination
charges with the EEOC. On November 19, 1998, she filed this sexual
harassment lawsuit against the Society and Davis.*fn1 The Society moves
for partial summary judgment on all of Bower's factual claims prior to
July 5, 1997, arguing that these are time barred I deny the motion
In order to bring a Title VII discrimination suit in federal court, a
plaintiff must have filed a charge with the EEOC detailing the basis of
the allegations within 300 days of the date of its occurrence.
42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5 (e)(1); EEOC v. Harvey L. Walner & Assocs.,
91 F.3d 963, 970 (7th Cir. 1996). When she fails to do so, the complaint
is untimely. Hentosh v. Herman M. Finch University of Health Sciences/the
Chicago Medical School, 167 F.3d 1170, 1173-74 (7th Cir. 1999). The
factual claims the Society wants me to throw out occurred outside the
300-day limit if that is computed as the Society wants.
However, Ms. Bowers invokes the continuing violation doctrine to bring
these events back into her lawsuit. On this doctrine, conduct that falls
outside the limitations period is actionable if it is linked with related
acts that fall within the period, and the acts are then treated as one
continuous act ending within the limitations period. Selan v. Kiley,
969 F.2d 560, 564 (7th Cir. 1992). The continuing violation doctrine is
applicable if the conduct can only be recognized as actionable in the
light of later events that occurred within the limitations period.
Filipovic v. K & R Express Systems, Inc., 176 F.3d 390, 396 (7th
Cir. 1999). The justification for treating a series of separate
violations as a continuing violation is that the plaintiff had no reason
to believe that she had been subject to actionable discrimination when
the events outside the limitations period occurred. Selan v. Kiley,
969 F.2d 560, 565-66 (7th Cir. 1992).
The Society argues that the continuing violations doctrine does not
apply in this case because Bowers believed that she was being sexually
harassed as early as 1993. As evidence of Bowers' beliefs, it offers the
1. Bowers said that Davis made a pass at her in 1993 while they were
working for a different employer, the American Health School Association
(the "Association"), and when Davis offered Bowers the job working for
the Society, Bowers sought assurances that her rejection of this unwanted
attention would not affect her employment at the Society. Bowers wrote in
her journal on February 23, 1993 that she had been told that Davis'
conduct "could be sexual harassment."
2. Bowers testified in her deposition that in July 1995, after
receiving a poor performance evaluation from Davis, she told Davis that
she did not appreciate being sexually harassed.
3. Bowers stated that in December 1995, she kept a copy of a sexually
graphic document that Davis created as evidence of discrimination.
4. On April 18, 1996, Bowers wrote in her journal, "I have it in mind
that if Dana goes through what I fear, I will sue [the Society]."
5. On April 26, 1996, Bowers wrote in her journal that Davis was
"crude," made "sexual harassing comments," and so forth. Bowers had done
some searching . . . [into] court cases on discrimination. . . . It seems
that people have won cases even when they don't have as much evidence as
I do about my situation. I could get Dana on all of these issues right
6. On June 5, 1996, Bowers wrote in her journal: "If [my performance
review] is bad again, I'll have to submit another rebuttal and consider
officially registering a sexual harassment complaint against [Davis]."
The Society maintains that this evidence shows that Bowers knew from
before it hired her, and knew all along during her employment, that she
was being sexually harassed, and therefore she has no continuing
violation to save the events outside the limitations period.
The clock started ticking for Bowers' claims when a reasonable person
would have known that she had a cause of action for sexual harassment,
that is, when the basis for her lawsuit actually accrued, Thelen v.
Marc's Big Boy Corporation, 64 F.3d 264, 267 (7th Cir. 1995) ("The
plaintiffs action accrues when [s]he discovers that [s]he has been
injured."); Artis v. Hitachi Zosen Clearing, Inc., 967 F.2d 1132, 1144
(7th Cir. 1992), and she would have reasonably realized this — not
when she might have wrongly believed that it had accrued. See Hardin v.
S.C Johnson & Son, Inc., 167 F.3d 340, 344 (7th Cir. 1999) ("Where
. . . it is evident long before the plaintiff sues that she was a victim of
actionable harassment, she "cannot reach back and base her suit on
conduct that occurred outside the statute of limitations.' ") (emphasis
added). But it must have been evident to a reasonable person that the
harassment was in fact serious enough to be actionable. A complaint
"would [have] ...