Statutes of Limitations: How Time Can Impact Your Employment Claims
Most civil legal claims are subject to Statutes of Limitations, which, simply put, are the amounts of time, defined by law, that parties involved in a dispute have in order to initiate legal action. This can mean that you have a set amount of time to file a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, file a lawsuit if you are pursuing claims under the Family Medical Leave Act or the Fair Labor Standards Act, or to file lawsuits under other state or local laws.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
In employment law, certain legal claims are under the jurisdiction of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC was established to enforce federal laws pertaining to workplace discrimination. Most employers with 15 or more employees (20 employees for age discrimination and pregnancy discrimination cases) are required to abide by laws under the EEOC’s jurisdiction in all work situations, including hiring and promotion practices, training of employees, wages and benefits offered to employees, as well as harassment, demotion, and termination of employees.
So, if you have been subjected to discrimination based on your race, gender, sexual orientation, age, national origin, religion, disability, pregnancy, or if you have been sexually harassed or retaliated against because of or for opposing any of these illegal actions, claims must be pursued first by filing a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC. Time limits vary, but in Georgia, EEOC charges must be filed within 180-days of the date of adverse action. A plaintiff’s employment law attorney can help you determine your date of adverse action, but you can think of this as the date you were notified of a discriminatory demotion or termination, or in the case of sexual harassment without any retaliation, the most recent date of the sexual harassment.
There is a second statute of limitation associated with the EEOC. Once the agency concludes its investigation into claims of discrimination, the EEOC will issue the Notice of Rights to Sue. The EEOC does not need to conclude that the allegations are substantiated for a lawsuit to be filed. But it is important to note that the statute of limitations is 90-days from the date the Notice of Rights to Sue is received. To avoid any dispute related to the timeliness of the filing of the lawsuit, it is a better practice to file your complaint no later than 90-days from the date of issuance of the Notice of Rights to Sue.
Family Medical Leave Act
The Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) requires qualified employers with more than 50 employees within a 75-mile radius to offer 12-weeks of leave per year, either continuous or intermittent, to eligible employees for their personal treatment, or for the care of a close family member, when managing qualified medical conditions. This allows employees certain job protections when dealing with some of life’s greatest challenges.
The FMLA prohibits employers from denying FMLA leave to qualified individuals and from retaliating against FMLA-eligible employees for using FMLA leave. Statutes of limitations for FMLA claims vary depending upon whether the employer’s violation was intentional or not. Employees or former employees can file a lawsuit alleging FMLA violations for up to two years from the date of the infraction, or three years if the violations were deliberate. Since the issue of intentionality is often a point of dispute between parties, an experienced labor and employment attorney, particularly one who routinely represents employees, should be consulted to determine which statute of limitations applies. Of course, you do not need to wait until two or, if applicable, three years have nearly passed to file your federal court complaint for violations of and damages under the FMLA.
Fair Labor Standards Act
Enacted in 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) established worker’s rights to a minimum wage and overtime pay, as well as created, among other things, standards for child labor. The FLSA falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Labor, Wage and Hour division. Allegations of FLSA violations can be lodged with the Wage and Hour division in your state. Employers can be sued for violations of the FLSA if they intentionally ignored the provisions of the FLSA or if they simply made mistakes in classification or pay. Ordinarily, complaints alleging FLSA infractions must be filed within two-years of the infractions. However, if allegations are made that an employer willfully violated the FLSA, complaints may be filed within three-years of the violations.
It is important to note that timing of when you file your FLSA complaint and the potential remedy (damages) you are eligible to receive under the FLSA are intertwined. Generally, the sooner, the better in terms of a plaintiff’s potential for being awarded damages.
Assault and other State Tort Claims
In Georgia, if you have been sexually harassed or physically harmed at work, you may have additional claims under state law. As each situation is highly individualized, it is best to consult with an attorney to determine what claims may exist and what the statute of limitations may be.
Breach of Contract Claims
If you have a contract governed by the laws of the state of Georgia, you have six years to assert allegations of breach of contract. Like other areas of employment law, other claims may co-exist, so it is always best practice to seek the counsel of a plaintiff’s employment law attorney to review your contract, discuss the facts of your situation and determine precisely when your statute of limitations expires.
Legare, Attwood & Wolfe, LLC specializes in representing employees who have suffered civil rights violations, including racial discrimination, gender discrimination (including pregnancy, sexual harassment, sexual orientation and transgender discrimination), religious discrimination, national origin discrimination, disability discrimination, as well as those who have Family Medical Leave Act claims, overtime and job misclassification claims, harassment, and breach of contract or wrongful termination claims. If you want more information about your unique situation, we’ll be glad to see if we can help. 470.823.4000 | law-llc.com
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