Don’t Hesitate: Statute of Limitations in Discrimination and Harassment Cases

by | January 14, 2021 | Employment Discrimination, Employment Law

Are you considering contacting a lawyer about discrimination, harassment, or mistreatment at work?  It may be tempting to wait.  You think: “Let’s see how this plays out. Learn if the company will do the right thing. Maybe they will promote me, or transfer me, and maybe things will get better. I have a lot on my plate right now, and there’s no need to rush to get a lawyer involved.”

But there’s a problem with this line of thinking, and it is called the “statute of limitations.”  Statutes of limitations are lawyer jargon for deadlines.  When your employer does something illegal, the clock starts ticking.  You have a certain amount of time to take action, or you lose the ability to file an administrative charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the ability to file an employment discrimination lawsuit.

Unfortunately, many claims for employment discrimination and harassment claims have short time limits.  For certain types of claims in certain states, you must file a claim with the EEOC within 180 days.  In most states, you have 300 days to challenge discrimination with the EEOC under certain laws.  If you are a government employee, you have even less time to report your claims internally.

It is a good idea to talk with an employment lawyer as soon as possible to learn what your time limits are.  Your lawyer may even be able to help you reach what is called a “tolling agreement,” or an agreement with your employer that your time limit may be paused so that you have time to address the situation with your employer.

But even if you want to challenge discrimination or harassment that happened long ago, it is a good idea to talk with an employment lawyer as soon as possible. It may be that you have claims for “continuing violations” of law, in which case you may be able to raise a claim to challenge actions that occurred before the statute of limitations period.  Some federal claims for gender discrimination in compensation have a three-year statute of limitations.  Some states have even longer time limits and calculate the deadlines differently in a way that may give employees more time.  And you can challenge race discrimination under certain federal laws even four years later.  You may also be able to raise challenges under state tort laws, which are not subject to the short time limits that the EEOC requires.

The bottom line?  It is a good idea to consult with an experienced employment discrimination attorney right away to discuss possible claims and their time limits.  Sanford Heisler Sharp has experienced attorneys in New York, Washington, DC, San Francisco, San Diego, Tennessee, and Baltimore.