It's complicated to sue for discriminatory firing when you haven't actually been fired. But it's doable. The lesson from the Supreme Court on Monday is that timing matters.
The justices weighed in on the important question of when the clock starts for plaintiffs who have been "constructively discharged" -- that is, effectively fired because of discriminatory treatment. Seven of the eight justices agreed that if someone quit a job and alleges discrimination was the reason, his claim starts when he quit, not when the discriminatory treatment against him is said to have occurred.
The decision is a wise one, reflecting a common-sense understanding of this sort of discrimination. It's important because it shows the court is willing to enforce anti-discrimination laws, notwithstanding the literal words of the law. Only Justice Clarence Thomas, the last of the Scalia-style literalists, dissented.
The facts of the case, Green v. Brennan, were classics of the constructive-discharge genre. Marvin Green, a 35-year veteran of the Post Office, applied to be postmaster of Englewood, Colorado. When he didn't get the job, he sued for racial discrimination.