The statute of limitations is a specific time period allotted for filing certain types of lawsuits. Each type of legal action has a specific filing deadline. If a lawsuit is not filed within this deadline, your lawsuit may not be accepted or heard. After the statute of limitations has run on the case, in a majority of instances, individuals are not allowed to bring future wrongful termination claims. Federal statute of limitations outline the deadlines for suits filed in federal courts and state statute of limitations apply to lawsuits filed in state courts. In California, the statute of limitations for wrongful termination lawsuits varies depending on the type of lawsuit that is filed.
Public Policy Violation Termination SOL
When there is a violation of public policy, aggrieved individuals have two years under California law to file a wrongful termination lawsuit. Violations of public policy relate to the fact that California is an at-will employment state. This essentially means that the employer can terminate an employee's job without providing a reason or justification. The employer has the right to terminate an employee for any reason at any time unless there is a violation of public policy or when the firing is illegal because it is discriminatory or retaliatory in nature.
Discrimination and Harassment Termination SOL
These types of lawsuits may be filed under the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 or under California's Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Both laws have provisions that set forth statute of limitations. Under federal anti-discrimination laws, an employee has 180 days from the date of termination to file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or EEOC. This triggers an investigation process that could lead to a notice of right to sue, which allows employees to bring civil actions in court.
The 180-day statute of limitations holds unless employees can turn to a local or state government agency. In California, this agency is the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). When a federal charge is filed with the DFEH, the statute of limitations for wrongful termination cases is 300 days after the date of termination. If the EEOC or state agency does not complete their investigation, they must issue a notice of right to sue after which the employee will have 90 days to file a civil action in court.
Breach of Contract Termination SOL
When an employer fires an employee in violation a written, verbal or implied contract, that might amount to wrongful termination. In these types of cases, the statute of limitations for a wrongful termination case is a little different in California from deadlines for terminations based on discrimination. When an employer violates a written employment contract, the employee has four years after the breach occurred to file a wrongful termination lawsuit. If an implied contract was violated, the statute of limitations is two years from the date the contract was breached.
Defamation or Fraud Termination SOL
Sometimes a wrongful termination case may stem from defamation or fraud. For defamation, the deadline to file is usually one year from the date of libel or slander. For terminations involving fraud, an employee has three years to file a claim based on the date he or she discovered the fraud.
Contacting an Experienced Lawyer
It is important to remember that there is no one standard statute of limitations for wrongful termination claims in California. These filing deadlines could vary depending on the type of law that forms the basis of the employee's claim. It is therefore important to seek the counsel of experienced Los Angeles wrongful termination lawyers who are well versed in the nuances of these laws and will ensure that your case is filed in a timely and accurate manner.