Best Ohio Employment Discrimination Attorney Reply: How long do I have to sue my job? What is the statute of limitations for an employment claim? I got fired years ago, can I still sue?
Have you ever gotten really mad at someone, and then hours or days later thought of a good comeback? You wish you had said it right when you had the chance, but now it is too late? (Think George Castanza – Seinfeld – The Jerkstore – YouTube). The employment law is a little bit like that. You might have a good case, but if you wait too long it will be too late to say anything. This is due to the statute of limitations. For different types of claims there are different statutes of limitations, or lengths of time you have to bring a lawsuit.
For the most part, if it has been too long since the discrimination occurred, then it will be too late to bring a claim against your former employer. Call employment law attorneys to check out what your statute of limitations, which may be as long as six years.
There is one exception to this rule, it is called the continuing violation rule. Under this rule, if any action that is part of a pattern of discrimination is timely, other actions that are part of that pattern are still timely, even if they would be untimely on their own. a timely charge with respect to any incident of discrimination in furtherance of a policy of discrimination makes related discriminatory timely, even if they would be untimely if standing alone. See Varnadore v. Secretary of Labor, 141 F.3d 625 (6th Cir. 1998). A continuing violation exists where there is a relationship between a series of discriminatory actions and an invalid, underlying policy. Thus, if you can prove an underlying discriminatory practice and an action taken pursuant to that policy during the statutory period, the continuing violation rule keeps all other actions taken pursuant to the same policy actionable. In other words “a single non-time-barred act can save other acts that are time-barred.”
This continuing violation rule came up in another case that our employment law lawyers recently blogged about, Bohnert v. Roman Catholic Archbishop Of San Francisco. (See Can I Sue My Job For Sex Harassment By Coworkers?) If you recall, Kimberly Bohnert was employed as a biology teacher at Junipero Serra High School, which was an all-boys college preparatory school that was wholly governed and controlled by the Archdiocese. First, there was “offensive and sexually violent graffiti” directed at Bohnert in a school bathroom. Then there was a series of tweets on Twitter by two students that made sexual comments about Bohnert. Next, Bohnert and two other teachers were the subject of “upskirt” photos and videos being circulated about them. Thereafter, sexually graphic and violent “memes” were posted on the internet of Bohnert and other teachers. Sexual carvings were found on desks. The school investigated, sent letters home, had assemblies to address the conduct, suspended certain students, had meetings and presentations for parents and students. Bohnert took a leave of absence starting on May 17, 2013 and extending through the 2013-14 school year. After her return, there was evidence that such sexually inappropriate conduct continued at her school and other Archdiocese schools, although not directly involving Bohnert.
When Bohnert brought her claim against the Archdiocese, the employer claimed that Bohnert’s claims were barred by the statute of limitations because the last act of harassment, the meme, occurred more than 180 days before the suit was filed. However, the court found that the last act of discrimination was the school’s failure to remediate, thus the tweets, graffiti and memes, plus the failure to remediate “continued a single unlawful employment practice, within the statute of limitations period.” Thus, the employee’s claims were not barred by the statute of limitations.
It should be noted that the continuous violation rule is not a “get out of the statute of limitations period free” card. In Lelaind v. City & Cnty. of San Francisco, the court clarified that the continuing violations doctrine “is applicable to hostile work environment claims involving related acts that collectively constitute a single unlawful employment practice, but inapplicable to claims for discrete acts of discrimination and retaliation.” The employee, Lelaind, had brought an action against her former employer for unlawful employment practices based on her race, color, national origin, gender, and age. She was an African-American woman who was employed as a Senior Station Engineer in the Public Utilities Commission.
The Lelaind court explained that “the doctrine is applicable to hostile work environment claims involving related acts that collectively constitute a single unlawful employment practice, but inapplicable to claims for discrete acts of discrimination and retaliation.” The court examined the unlawful acts that fell outside the statute of limitations and examined each one. For example, there was a threat in late 2002 or early 2003 that Lelaind would be declared “AWOL” if she did not return to work, even though her leave had been approved. The court explained:
Unlike the other alleged conduct, the court concludes as a matter of law that no reasonable jury could find this action to be sufficiently similar or close enough in time to the actions falling within the statute of limitations to be actionable under the continuing violations doctrine. Lyon’s “AWOL” threat occurred in late 2002 or early 2003, nearly one year prior to Gilman’s refusal to appoint Lelaind as Acting Chief, and nearly two years prior to when Chris Logia replaced Ronald Chen as the new Chief of the Oceanside Plant. By the time Chris Logia became the new Chief in 2005, Kevin Lyons no longer worked for the PUC and had been replaced by Herb Dang as Manager. Moreover, Lyon’s “AWOL” threat arose from a different factual context than the other allegedly wrongful conduct. While the “AWOL” threat arose from a chain of events beginning in July 2001 when Lelaind chose Carmi Johnson to serve in her stead as Acting Senior, the other allegedly wrongful conduct arose from a chain of events beginning in early 2004 when Ronald Chen decided to step down permanently as Chief. The court concludes as a matter of law that under FEHA, Kevin Lyon’s “AWOL” threat is not actionable because it falls outside the statute of limitations and is not saved by the continuing violations doctrine.
Conversely, the court found that other conduct was actionable even when it fell outside the limitations period:
The 2004 denial of appointment as Acting Chief is similar in kind to the other alleged adverse employment actions falling within the statute of limitations period. Gilman both passed over Lelaind for the Acting Chief position and proposed her reassignment to the Southeast Plant. The subset of Logia’s conduct occurring prior to February 2005 is similar in kind to Logia’s conduct occurring after February 2005. Indeed, Lelaind alleges that the negative treatment she received from Logia began in early 2005 and continued, unchanged and unabated, throughout 2005. This treatment, Lelaind alleges, culminated in the June 2005 negative performance evaluation, which occurred just one month before she was transferred to the Southeast Plant. Moreover, Logia’s selection as Lelaind’s new Chief stems from the same factual circumstances as Gilman’s refusal to appoint Lelaind as Acting Chief, namely the transition following Ronald Chen’s decision to step down as Chief. The close temporal relationship connecting the preand post-limitations period conduct, the frequency of the conduct which was recurring but not so pervasive as to have acquired a degree of permanence, as well as the fact that the conduct was perpetrated by the same two managers, one of whom reported directly to the other, leads the court to conclude that a reasonable jury could find that under FEHA there is a continuing course of unlawful conduct. Accordingly, all of the alleged conduct beginning in early 2004 when Gilman refused to appoint Lelaind Acting Chief may be actionable, even though some of the conduct falls outside the statute of limitations.
If you recall from our previous blogs, there main statute of limitations periods for employment discrimination cases (race/color, religion, gender/sex, national origin, disability discrimination) is six years. This means that a lawsuit based on your state discrimination claim must be filed within six years of the date you believe you were discriminated against. One major exception to this is age discrimination claims, which must be filed within 180 days of the date you believe you were discriminated against (in most circumstances). There may be other limitations or claims, which is why it is so important that you contact the right attorney today for a free consultation.
If you are searching “I need a lawyer because I have been wrongfully fired or terminated;” or “I have been discriminated against based on my …” race, national origin, gender, age, religion or disability; or even think that you might need an employment lawyer, then it would be best to call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation at (216) 291-4744. The Spitz Law Firm and its attorneys are experienced and dedicated to protecting employees’ rights and solving employment disputes.
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