Wrongful Termination – Statute of Limitations In California

February 19, 2019

The statute of limitations is an important concept in the law. Depending on the type of action an employee is pursuing, each action has a specified time period that must be observed for filing. If someone who is looking to file a potential lawsuit misses this specified time period then they may lose the opportunity to file a case indefinitely.

Though this seems like an easy concept, the timetable in which one can file a suit varies depending on the jurisdiction and what type of claim the employee plans to file.

The Statute of Limitation for Discrimination and Harassment

In California, when an employee places to file a discrimination based wrongful termination action, they can do so under two separate laws. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal law that protects employees from discrimination in the workplace. On the other hand, California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) is a state law that does the same. Both laws find discrimination and harassment in the workplace illegal, but provide for different statues of limitations.

Under federal law and Title VII, the statute of limitations in place states that an employee has 180 days from the date of termination to file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission( EEOC). The EEOC is the government agency that is responsible for enforcing federal anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws.  Filing a charge with the EEOC is a necessary step prior to an employment suit under a federal statute. As such, this deadline is extremely important. Once the aggrieved employee files a claim with the EEOC, they will investigate and eventually provide the employee with a Notice of Right to Sue. That notice allows the employee file a civil action against their former employer.

In California, the agency who is charged with enforcing state based employment laws is the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Under the DFEH, the employee has 300 days to file a charge for wrongful termination. Similar to the EEOC, the DFEH will issue the employee with a Notice of Right to Sue. Once the employee is given the Right to Sue, they have 90 days from that date to file a lawsuit in civil court.

Since an employee has the decision to file under State law or Federal law the statute of limitations will differ. If the employee files under FEHA, state law, the employee will have one year to file a claim. That timeline starts from the date of the last discriminatory act.

Thus a Californian, suing under federal law, must file a wrongful termination charge based on discriminatory acts within 300 days of the date of termination. Further, a claim in court should be filed no later than 90 days from when the right to sue notice is issued. On the other hand, if the employee chooses to file a charge under state law, the statute of limitations is one year from the date of termination, while, the statute of limitations to file a claim in court is one year after a right to sue notice is issued.

Can a Statute of Limitations Be Extended?

The only way for the statute of limitations on a claim to extended is through suspending or a process called tolling. Tolling the statute of limitations generally occurs upon the agreement of both potential parties. Once the parties agree, they can extend the deadline to file a claim for a set amount of time.

If an employee plans on filing a lawsuit they should make sure they are within the time period allowed by the statute of limitations. There are strict regulations governing the process for filing a lawsuit and a missed deadline will severely affect the value of any potential suit. The experienced attorneys at Shegerian Conniff are ready to hold your employer accountable, fight for your legal rights, and seek justice.  Click here to contact us today or call us at 310-322-7500 for a free consultation.