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 "termination, failure to promote, denial of transfer, [and] refusal to hire." National Railroad Passenger Corporation v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101, 114, 122 S.Ct. 2061, 153 L.Ed.2d 106 (2002). Because a pay-setting decision is a "discrete act," it follows that the period 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 rejected. We therefore affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.
Petitioner Lilly Ledbetter (Ledbetter) worked for respondent Goodyear Tire & 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' evaluation of their performance. In March 1998, Ledbetter submitted 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), 77 Stat. 56, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d).
The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of Goodyear on several of Ledbetter's claims, including her EPA 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
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, 180 days before the filing of her EEOC questionnaire.
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 regarding the sufficiency of the evidence in relation to the 1997 and 1998 pay decisions. Rather, she sought review of the following question:
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 1169 with Forsyth v. Federation Employment & Guidance Serv., 409 F.3d 565 (C.A.2 2005); Shea v. Rice, 409 F.3d 448 (C.A.D.C.2005), we granted certiorari, 548 U.S. 903, 126 S.Ct. 2965, 165 L.Ed.2d 949 (2006).
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 ... because of such individual's ... sex." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). An individual wishing to challenge an employment 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 employment practice occurred," ibid., and if the employee does not submit a timely EEOC charge, the employee may
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, 122 S.Ct. 2061. 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 questionnaire), 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 intentionally 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 element of which is discriminatory intent. See Chardon v. Fernandez, 454 U.S. 6, 8, 102 S.Ct. 28, 70 L.Ed.2d 6 (1981) (per curiam); Teamsters v. United States, 431 U.S. 324, 335, n. 15, 97 S.Ct. 1843, 52 L.Ed.2d 396 (1977); Watson v. Fort Worth Bank & Trust, 487 U.S. 977, 1002, 108 S.Ct. 2777, 101 L.Ed.2d 827 (1988) (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 paycheck 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, 97 S.Ct. 1885, 52 L.Ed.2d 571 (1977), we rejected an argument that is basically the same as Ledbetter's. Evans was forced to resign because the airline 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, 97 S.Ct. 1885. 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 "present effect to [its] past illegal act and therefore perpetuate[d] the consequences of forbidden discrimination." Id., at 557, 97 S.Ct. 1885.
We agreed with Evans that the airline's "seniority system [did] indeed have a continuing impact on her pay and fringe benefits," id., at 558, 97 S.Ct. 1885, but we noted that "the critical question [was]
It would be difficult to speak to the point more directly.
Equally instructive is Delaware State College v. Ricks, 449 U.S. 250, 101 S.Ct. 498, 66 L.Ed.2d 431 (1980), which concerned a college professor, Ricks, who alleged that he had been discharged because of national origin. In March 1974, Ricks was denied tenure, but he was given a final, nonrenewable 1-year contract that expired on June 30, 1975. Id., at 252-253, 101 S.Ct. 498. Ricks delayed filing a charge with the EEOC until April 1975, id., at 254, 101 S.Ct. 498, 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 recognized that "one of the effects of the denial of tenure," namely, his ultimate termination, "did not occur until later." Id., at 258, 101 S.Ct. 498 (emphasis in original). But because 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, 101 S.Ct. 498, we held that the EEOC charging period ran from "the time the tenure decision was made and communicated to Ricks," id., at 258, 101 S.Ct. 498.
This same approach dictated the out-come in Lorance v. AT & T Technologies, Inc., 490 U.S. 900, 109 S.Ct. 2261, 104 L.Ed.2d 961 (1989), which grew out of a change in the way in which seniority was calculated under a collective-bargaining agreement. Before 1979, all employees at the plant in question accrued seniority 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, 109 S.Ct. 2261.
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, 109 S.Ct. 2261. 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 effects of this practice were felt. 490 U.S., at 907-908, 109 S.Ct. 2261. We stated:
Our most recent decision in this area confirms this understanding. In Morgan, we explained that the statutory 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, 122 S.Ct. 2061. We pointed to "termination, failure to promote, denial of transfer, [and] refusal to hire" as examples of such "discrete" 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, 122 S.Ct. 2061.
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 not commence, upon the occurrence of subsequent nondiscriminatory acts that entail adverse effects resulting from the past discrimination. But of course, if an employer engages in a series of acts each of which is intentionally discriminatory, then a fresh violation takes place when each act is committed. See Morgan, supra, at 113, 122 S.Ct. 2061.
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 decisions that occurred prior to that period were not communicated 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, 97 S.Ct. 1885. 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 discriminatory 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 ("Intentional discrimination ... occurs when ... differential treatment takes place, even if the
Ledbetter's attempt to take the intent associated with the prior pay decisions and shift it to the 1998 pay decision is unsound. It would shift intent from one act (the act that consummates the discriminatory employment practice) 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, 101 S.Ct. 498.
Not only would Ledbetter's argument effectively eliminate 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, 97 S.Ct. 2447, 53 L.Ed.2d 402 (1977). We have previously noted the legislative compromises that preceded the enactment of Title VII, Mohasco Corp. v. Silver, 447 U.S. 807, 819-821, 100 S.Ct. 2486, 65 L.Ed.2d 532 (1980); EEOC v. Commercial Office Products Co., 486 U.S. 107, 126, 108 S.Ct. 1666, 100 L.Ed.2d 96 (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, 100 S.Ct. 2486, and we have repeatedly rejected suggestions that we extend or truncate Congress' deadlines. See, e.g., Electrical Workers v. Robbins & Myers, Inc., 429 U.S. 229, 236-240, 97 S.Ct. 441, 50 L.Ed.2d 427 (1976) (union grievance procedures do not toll EEOC filing deadline); Alexander v. Gardner-Denver Co., 415 U.S. 36, 47-49, 94 S.Ct. 1011, 39 L.Ed.2d 147 (1974) (arbitral decisions do not foreclose access to court following a timely filed EEOC complaint).
Statutes of limitations serve a policy of repose. American Pipe & Constr. Co. v. Utah, 414 U.S. 538, 554-555, 94 S.Ct. 756, 38 L.Ed.2d 713 (1974). They
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, 101 S.Ct. 498. 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, Congress clearly intended to encourage the prompt processing of all charges of employment discrimination." Mohasco, supra, at 825, 100 S.Ct. 2486. This short deadline reflects Congress' strong preference for the prompt
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.
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 legislature is the best guarantee of evenhanded administration of the law." Mohasco, supra, at 826,
In advancing her two theories Ledbetter does not seriously contest the logic of Evans, Ricks, Lorance, and Morgan as set out above, but rather argues that our decision in Bazemore v. Friday, 478 U.S. 385, 106 S.Ct. 3000, 92 L.Ed.2d 315 (1986) (per curiam), requires different treatment of her claim because it relates to pay. Ledbetter focuses specifically on our statement 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, 106 S.Ct. 3000. 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 discriminatory 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, repudiated the very different approach taken previously in Evans and Ricks. Ledbetter's interpretation is unsound.
Bazemore concerned a disparate-treatment pay claim brought against the North Carolina Agricultural Extension Service (Service). 478 U.S., at 389-390, 106 S.Ct. 3000. 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, 106 S.Ct. 3000. After Title VII was extended to public employees in 1972, black employees brought suit claiming that pay disparities attributable to the old dual pay scale persisted. Id., at 391, 106 S.Ct. 3000. 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, 106 S.Ct. 3000.
This Court reversed in a per curiam opinion, id., at 386-388, 106 S.Ct. 3000, but all of the Members of the Court joined Justice Brennan's separate opinion, see id., at 388, 106 S.Ct. 3000 (opinion concurring in part). Justice Brennan wrote:
Far from adopting the approach that Ledbetter advances 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 discrimination whenever it issues a check to one of these disfavored employees. An employer that adopts and intentionally retains such a pay structure can surely be regarded 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, 106 S.Ct. 3000 (emphasis in original; internal 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, 106 S.Ct. 3000 (emphasis added).
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:
Ledbetter attempts to eliminate the obvious inconsistencies 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 unlawfully 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, 97 S.Ct. 1885 ("[S]eniority determine[s] a flight 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 commanded 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 violation does not occur and a new charging period is not triggered when an employer issues paychecks pursuant to a system that is "facially nondiscriminatory and neutrally applied." Lorance, 490 U.S., at 911, 109 S.Ct. 2261. The fact that precharging period discrimination adversely affects the calculation 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 Goodyear 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 paychecks. 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. 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 2180-2181, 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 inconsistent with Morgan's reasoning.
Morgan distinguished between "discrete" acts of discrimination 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. 536 U.S., at 114, 117, 122 S.Ct. 2061. As examples we identified "termination, failure to promote, denial of transfer, or refusal to hire." Id., at 114, 122 S.Ct. 2061. 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, 122 S.Ct. 2061. In other words, the actionable wrong is the environment, not the individual acts that, taken together, create the environment.
Contrary to the dissent's assertion, post, at 2180-2181, 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 (arguing that payment of each paycheck constituted a separate 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, 122 S.Ct. 2061.
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 discriminatory 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 employee'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.
In addition to the arguments previously discussed, Ledbetter relies largely on analogies to other statutory regimes and on extrastatutory policy arguments to support her "paycheck accrual rule."
Ledbetter places significant weight on the EPA, which was enacted contemporaneously with Title VII and prohibits paying unequal wages for equal work because of sex. 29 U.S.C. § 206(d). Stating that "the lower courts routinely hear [EPA] claims challenging pay disparities that first arose outside the limitations period," Ledbetter suggests 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 asserted an EPA claim, but that claim was dismissed by the District Court and is not before us. If Ledbetter had pursued her EPA claim, she would not face the Title VII obstacles that she now confronts.
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 overtime 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 limitations for FLSA claims, except for claims of a "willful violation," which may be commenced within 3 years).
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 otherwise. In Machinists v. NLRB, 362 U.S. 411, 416-417, 80 S.Ct. 822, 4 L.Ed.2d 832 (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 holding 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.
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, 100 S.Ct. 2486, and the interest in repose.
Ledbetter's policy arguments for giving special treatment to pay claims find no support in the statute and are inconsistent with our precedents.
* * *
For these reasons, the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit is affirmed.
It is so ordered.
Justice GINSBURG, with whom Justice STEVENS, Justice SOUTER, and Justice BREYER join, dissenting.
Lilly Ledbetter was a supervisor at Goodyear Tire & 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 (C.A.11 2005); Brief for Petitioner 4.
Ledbetter launched charges of discrimination before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in March 1998. Her formal administrative complaint specified 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 employer "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 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  days after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1).
The Court's insistence on immediate contest overlooks common characteristics of pay discrimination. Pay disparities often occur, as they did in Ledbetter's case, in small increments; cause to suspect that discrimination is at work develops only
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, 122 S.Ct. 2061, 153 L.Ed.2d 106 (2002). It is only when the disparity becomes 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 readiness 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 `occurred'?" Id., at 110, 122 S.Ct. 2061. Our precedent suggests, and lower courts have overwhelmingly held, that the unlawful practice 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, 106 S.Ct. 3000, 92 L.Ed.2d 315 (1986) (Brennan, J., joined by all other Members of the Court, concurring in part).
Title VII proscribes as an "unlawful employment practice" 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 2166; supra, at 2178, 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 discrimination with respect to compensation. One answer identifies the pay-setting decision, and that decision alone, as the unlawful practice. Under this view, each particular salary-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 discriminatory wage as unlawful practices. Under this approach, each payment of a wage or salary infected by sex-based discrimination constitutes an unlawful employment practice; prior decisions, outside the 180-day charge-filing period, are not themselves actionable, but they are relevant in determining the lawfulness of conduct within the period. The Court adopts the first view, see ante, at 2165, 2166-2167, 2169-2170, but the second is more faithful to precedent, more in tune with the realities of the workplace, and more respectful of Title VII's remedial purpose.
In Bazemore, we unanimously held that an employer, the North Carolina Agricultural Extension Service, committed an unlawful employment practice each time it
Subsequently, in Morgan, we set apart, for purposes of Title VII's timely filing requirement, unlawful employment 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, 122 S.Ct. 2061. "[A][d]iscrete ac[t] such as termination, failure to promote, denial of transfer, or refusal to hire," id., at 114, 122 S.Ct. 2061, we explained, "`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, 122 S.Ct. 2061; see id., at 113, 122 S.Ct. 2061 ("[D]iscrete discriminatory acts are not actionable if time barred, even when they are related to acts alleged in timely filed charges. Each discrete discriminatory act starts a new clock for filing charges alleging that act.").
"[D]ifferent in kind from discrete acts," we made clear, are "claims ... based on the cumulative effect of individual acts." Id., at 115, 122 S.Ct. 2061. 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 contrast 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,
Consequently, although the unlawful conduct began in the past, "a charge may be
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 individual acts." See id., at 115, 122 S.Ct. 2061. 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 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 successive evaluations and percentage-based pay adjustments. See supra, at 2178. 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, 122 S.Ct. 2061; Bazemore, 478 U.S., at 395-396, 106 S.Ct. 3000; cf. Hanover Shoe, Inc. v. United Shoe Machinery Corp., 392 U.S. 481, 502, n. 15, 88 S.Ct. 2224, 20 L.Ed.2d 1231 (1968).
The realities of the workplace reveal why the discrimination with respect to compensation that Ledbetter suffered 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. Compensation disparities, in contrast, are often hidden from sight. It is not unusual, decisions in point illustrate, for management 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 (C.A.10 2002) (plaintiff did not know what her colleagues 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. Massachusetts Soc. for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 140 F.3d 288, 296 (C.A.1 1998) (plaintiff worked for employer for years before learning of salary disparity published in a newspaper).
The problem of concealed pay discrimination is particularly 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 discrimination 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 immediately actionable — or winnable.
Further separating pay claims from the discrete employment 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 differential is implemented. Furthermore, decisions on promotions, 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, 97 S.Ct. 1843, 52 L.Ed.2d 396 (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 disparities and discrete employment decisions of the type identified in Morgan, the cases on which the Court relies hold no sway. See ante, at 2167-2170 (discussing United Air Lines, Inc. v. Evans, 431 U.S. 553, 97 S.Ct. 1885, 52 L.Ed.2d 571 (1977), Delaware State College v. Ricks, 449 U.S. 250, 101 S.Ct. 498, 66 L.Ed.2d 431 (1980), and Lorance v. AT & T Technologies, Inc., 490 U.S. 900, 109 S.Ct. 2261, 104 L.Ed.2d 961 (1989)). Evans and Ricks both involved a single, immediately identifiable act of discrimination: in Evans, a constructive discharge, 431 U.S., at 554, 97 S.Ct. 1885; in Ricks, a denial of tenure, 449 U.S., at 252, 101 S.Ct. 498. 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 barring 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 unlawful and therefore should not operate to deny her seniority credit for her prior service. See Evans, 431 U.S., at 554-557, 97 S.Ct. 1885. 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, 101 S.Ct. 498. No repetitive, cumulative discriminatory employment practice was at issue in either case. See Evans,
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 discrimination." See 490 U.S., at 902, 905, 109 S.Ct. 2261 (internal quotation marks omitted). The Court's extensive reliance on Lorance, ante, at 2168-2170, 2172, 2174, moreover, is perplexing for that decision is no longer effective: In the 1991 Civil Rights Act, Congress superseded Lorance's holding. § 112, 105 Stat. 1079 (codified as amended at 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(2)). Repudiating our judgment that a facially neutral seniority system adopted with discriminatory intent must be challenged immediately, Congress provided:
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, 109 S.Ct. 2261 (opinion of Marshall, J.). See also § 3, 105 Stat. 1071 (1991 Civil Rights Act was designed "to respond to recent decisions 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 addressed only seniority systems. See ante, at 2169, 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 generalize the ruling in Bazemore. As the Senate Report accompanying the proposed Civil Rights Act of 1990, the precursor to the 1991 Act, explained:
See also 137 Cong. Rec. 29046, 29047 (1991) (Sponsors' Interpretative Memorandum) ("This legislation should be interpreted
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  days," 490 U.S., at 914, 109 S.Ct. 2261 (Marshall, J., dissenting), Congress never intended to immunize forever discriminatory pay differentials unchallenged 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, 122 S.Ct. 2061 ("If Congress intended 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 recoverable damages elsewhere to a particular time period [i.e., two years] indicates that the [180-day] timely filing provision 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 present violation the payment of wages infected by discrimination: Each paycheck less than the amount payable had the employer adhered to a nondiscriminatory compensation regime, courts have held, constitutes a cognizable harm. See, e.g., Forsyth v. Federation Employment and Guidance Serv., 409 F.3d 565, 573 (C.A.2 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 (C.A.D.C.2005) ("[An] employer commit[s] a separate unlawful employment practice each time he pa[ys] one employee less than another for a discriminatory reason" (citing Bazemore, 478 U.S., at 396, 106 S.Ct. 3000)); Goodwin, 275 F.3d, at 1009-1010 ("[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 continually recurring violation .... [E]ach race-based discriminatory salary payment constitutes a fresh violation of Title VII." (footnote omitted)); Anderson v. Zubieta, 180 F.3d 329, 335 (C.A.D.C.1999) ("The Courts of Appeals have repeatedly reached the ... conclusion" that pay discrimination is "actionable upon receipt of each paycheck."); accord Hildebrandt v. Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources, 347 F.3d 1014,
Similarly in line with the real-world characteristics of pay discrimination, the EEOC — the federal agency responsible 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 "[r]epeated 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 discrepancy." (citing Bazemore, 478 U.S., at 396, 106 S.Ct. 3000)). 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 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, 122 S.Ct. 2061).
The Court asserts that treating pay discrimination as a discrete act, limited to each particular pay-setting decision, is necessary to "protec[t] employers from the burden of defending claims arising from employment decisions that are long past." Ante, at 2170 (quoting Ricks, 449 U.S., at 256-257, 101 S.Ct. 498). But the discrimination of which Ledbetter complained is not long past. As she alleged, and as the jury found, Goodyear continued to treat
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 knowledge of all the circumstances relating to the ... decision at the time it was made." Ante, at 2175. It suffices to point out that the defenses just noted would make such a suit foolhardy. No sensible judge would tolerate such inexcusable neglect. See Morgan, 536 U.S., at 121, 122 S.Ct. 2061 ("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 2176, 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), 77 Stat. 56, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d), she would not have encountered a time bar.
To show how far the Court has strayed from interpretation 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 substantially 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 2178.
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 particular one-year period, fell below Goodyear's minimum threshold for her position. App. 93-97. Although Goodyear claimed the pay disparity was due to poor performance, 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 previously 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.
Yet, under the Court's decision, the discrimination Ledbetter proved is not redressable under Title VII. Each 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
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 2183-2184. See also Wards Cove Packing Co. v. Atonio, 490 U.S. 642, 109 S.Ct. 2115, 104 L.Ed.2d 733 (1989) (superseded in part by the Civil Rights Act of 1991); Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, 490 U.S. 228, 109 S.Ct. 1775, 104 L.Ed.2d 268 (1989) (plurality opinion) (same); 1 B. Lindemann & P. Grossman, Employment 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[,]" culminating 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.
* * *
For the reasons stated, I would hold that Ledbetter's claim is not time barred and would reverse the Eleventh Circuit's judgment.
"[T]he majority holds, in effect, that because the pattern of discriminatory 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 maintained basis) be considered in assessing a challenge to post-act continuation of that pattern."
"Hazelwood[School Dist. v. United States, 433 U.S. 299, 97 S.Ct. 2736, 53 L.Ed.2d 768 (1977),] 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 discrimination, 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 affirmatively to redress the balance; and quite another to say that it may also 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 (C.A.4 1984) (Phillips, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part) (emphasis in original; footnotes omitted).