Deciding to file a lawsuit against your employer is a significant decision that comes with numerous considerations. Among these is the time limit to bring your lawsuit, also known as the “statute of limitations”. In California, the statute of limitations varies depending on the nature of the claim. Understanding these time frames is critical, as failing to file a lawsuit within the applicable statute of limitations can result in a loss of your right to sue. An employment lawyer can help you decide when is the right time to start your claim.
Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation Claims
If you’re filing a lawsuit for discrimination, harassment, or retaliation, you typically need to first file a charge with the appropriate government agency. In California, this is either the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
For the DFEH, as of January 1, 2020, the deadline to file a complaint is three years from the date of the unlawful practice. Once you have received a right-to-sue notice from the DFEH, you have one year to file a lawsuit in court.
For the EEOC, you generally have 300 days from the date of the unlawful practice to file a charge. After receiving a right-to-sue notice from the EEOC, you have 90 days to file a lawsuit.
Wage and Hour Claims
If you’re suing for unpaid wages, overtime, or meal and rest break violations, the statute of limitations can vary. If you’re filing a claim under California labor law, you generally have three years from the date of the violation to file a lawsuit. For claims involving a written contract, the statute of limitations extends to four years.
Wrongful Termination Claims
For wrongful termination claims, the statute of limitations generally depends on the basis of the claim. If the termination was discriminatory or retaliatory, the statute of limitations would follow the timelines for discrimination, harassment, and retaliation claims as discussed above.
If the wrongful termination claim is based on a breach of contract, you have two years to file a lawsuit if the contract was oral, and four years if the contract was written.
Under the California Whistleblower Protection Act, employees who report violations of state or federal laws have varying amounts of time to file a claim depending on the specific circumstances. In general, an employee has up to three years to file a claim.
Personal Injury Claims
If your claim against your employer involves a personal injury, such as physical harm caused by a hazardous work environment, you typically have two years from the date of the injury to file a lawsuit.
Understanding the statute of limitations is crucial when deciding to take legal action against your employer. Keep in mind that these timeframes are general guidelines and can vary based on the specifics of your case. Furthermore, determining the exact moment from which the statute of limitations begins to run can be complex and is often a matter of legal interpretation.
Therefore, if you believe you have a claim against your employer, it is essential to consult with an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights and preserve your ability to bring a lawsuit.