Understanding Wrongful Termination Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitations is a specific period of time that is allotted for filing certain types of lawsuits. After the statute of limitations runs out, in most instances, the victim is barred from initiating a lawsuit. In California, the statute of limitations for wrongful termination claims depends on the circumstances of the claim. Attorney Chris Olsen can assess your case to determine if it warrants legal action, as well as evaluate whether you are within the time period to file a claim. To learn more about wrongful termination statute of limitations, contact his San Diego, CA, practice today and schedule your free consultation.
Wrongful Termination as a Result of Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation
Generally, individuals have to file a charge of discrimination with either the Deptment of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within one year of the last discriminatory incident. If you were terminated, then most likely the last discriminatory event was your termination. After you file a charge with the DFEH or EEOC, the statute of limitations is tolled. This means that the statute of limitations will not run out as the agency investigates your claim.
The next step in a discrimination, harassment, or retaliation case is the issuance of a right-to-sue letter by either the DFEH or the EEOC. With a DFEH issuance, individuals have one year from the date of that letter to file a lawsuit in court. An EEOC right-to-sue letter usually has a much shorter expiration date of either 90 or 300 days, depending on your claim. An attorney can actually shortcut this process by obtaining an automatic right-to-sue letter. In this way, the claimant can avoid filing a charge with DFEH or EEOC, and initiate a lawsuit in court right away.
Individuals who have been terminated for discriminatory, harassment, or retaliatory reasons and missed the one year deadline to file might be able to bring a claim for wrongful termination in violation of public policy.
California is an “at-will” employment state. This means that an employer can dismiss an employee without just cause for termination. An employer’s authority to terminate an employee is limited though if it violates public policy. Public policy is violated when an employee is fired for doing something that is protected by a statute or constitutional right. Examples of legally protected activities can include employment discrimination, violation of family or medical leave laws, or unsafe work environments. These types of claims must be filed in court within two years of the wrongful termination.
Breach of Written or Implied Contract
When termination violates one of the provisions of a written employment contract, an employee has up to four years to file a claim of wrongful termination. The four years will begin from the date that the breach occurred, and not from the date of termination.
If an employment contract is not written, but implied based on the actions or behavior of the employer and employee, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of the breach of the contract.
Unpaid Overtime, Commission, Minimum Wage, and other Labor Code Violations
Claims must be filed with the Labor Commissioner or in court within three years from when the wages were earned. In other words, if an employee worked more than three years, they may lose a portion of their claims. In court, a plaintiff can include a cause of action under Business and Professions Code Section 17200 that effectively extends the statute of limitations by a year. In this way, an employee can file claims for up to four years. This option is not applicable though when filing with the Labor Commissioner.
California Equal Pay Act
Wage discrimination claims based on gender must be made within two years in the majority of cases, and within three years if the violation can be proven to be willful.
Family Medical Leave Act
Claims relating to the violation of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) must be filed within two years of the violation, or within three years if the violation can be proven to be willful.
Contact Us to Learn More
If you are concerned about how and when to file a wrongful termination claim, reach out to attorney Chris Olsen today. He can meet with you to review the specifics of your case during a free legal consultation.