When workers allege that mental illness prevented the timely filing of a federal employment discrimination lawsuit, courts subject them to extreme standards at the equitable tolling stage, which ends workers’ lawsuits against their employers. Such an approach to workers suffering from mental illness is indicative both of judicial misunderstanding of equitable remedies and judicial ignorance of equity’s historical engagement with those afflicted with mental illness. More importantly, subjection of workers to high threshold requirements at equity is an affront to workers’ dignity. Dignity, like equity, has a powerful moral basis that focuses on the individual. Dignity requires that workers alleging that mental illness foreclosed a timely filing of a federal employment discrimination lawsuit be heard and that they not be humiliated.
My contribution to the scholarly literature is three-fold. First, I introduce dignity to the scholarly literature on equity and reject arguments by prominent readers of American equity as unresponsive to the kinds of dignitary treatment that vulnerable plaintiffs should expect from courts sitting at equity. Second, I extend judicial discussion of dignity and equity to encompass federal remedies law and federal employment discrimination law. Third, I contribute to the literature on disabilities by looking at the treatment of afflicted workers at a particular point in the federal adjudicatory process. My policy prescriptions explore possible legal and equitable responses to the humiliating experience awaiting workers who allege that mental illness prevented the timely filing of a federal employment discrimination lawsuit.