In California, employees have legal rights and protections under various state and federal employment laws that allow them to pursue claims. However, these rights are subject to a time limit known as the statute of limitations. If you miss the deadline, you will likely lose your right to pursue legal action.
Discrimination claims, including those based on race, gender, age, disability, or other protected characteristics, are typically subject to a statute of limitations of one year from the date of the alleged discriminatory act. However, claims under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) must be filed with California’s Civil Rights Department (CRD) within one year from the date of the discriminatory act, after which the employee has one year to file a lawsuit.
Claims of wrongful termination must generally be filed within two years from the date of the termination. However, claims based on a violation of public policy may have a longer statute of limitations.
In the majority of cases, an individual—be it an employee, former employee, or job applicant—asserting retaliation claims under the jurisdiction of the Labor Commissioner must submit the complaint to the Labor Commissioner’s Office within one year following the adverse action.
However, there are several exceptions. For instance, a complaint alleging retaliation related to reporting a violation of licensing regulations or laws concerning child daycare facilities must be filed within 90 days. In the case of retaliation against a minor, the filing period begins once they reach 18 years old. Additionally, individuals claiming retaliation for reporting a workplace health or safety issue retain the right to concurrently file a complaint with federal OSHA within 30 days of the adverse action.
Claims related to unpaid wages, overtime, or meal and rest breaks generally have a statute of limitations of three years from the date the violation occurred to file a lawsuit. For claims involving pay disparity alleging differential pay for substantially similar work based on gender, race, or ethnicity, the filing window is two years from the alleged violation or three years for willful violations.
Claims of sexual harassment typically have a statute of limitations of one year from the date of the alleged harassment. Like discrimination claims, employees must first file a complaint with the CRD within one year, after which they have one year to file a lawsuit.
Claims related to a breach of an employment contract typically have a statute of limitations of two to four years, depending on the nature of the breach. If an oral contract was breached, you have two years. Whereas, you have four years if a written employment contract was breached.
Employees who believe they have valid employment law claims should consult an experienced Orange County Employment Attorney as soon as possible. Early consultation is crucial to ensure that claims are filed within the applicable statute of limitations.