Statute of Limitations to Sue Employer

What is a Statute of Limitations?

The statute of limitations is a law that sets a time frame for initiating legal proceedings for an alleged offense. In the case of wrongful termination, the statutes of limitation may be set by state or federal law. Being aware of your state’s statute of limitations for wrongful termination is very important. If you file a lawsuit after the statute of limitations has expired your case may be thrown out at court.

If you have been fired or dismissed from work for illegal reasons, you may be able to sue your former employer for wrongful termination. A dismissed employee fired for the following reasons has protection under state and federal law and may file a wrongful termination claim:

  • Dismissal which violates the firing procedures as described in company handbooks or employee contract
  • Termination based on discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sexual orietation, disability, or other factors protected by federal discrimiation laws
  • Violation of a written, oral, or implied contract
  • Dismissal as a result of whistleblowing actions
  • If an employer and/or other employees use defamation of character as the reason for dismissal
  • Dismissal in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim or for asserting other legal rights afforded by federal labor laws
  • Termination in violation of public policy of the state
  • Fired for negligent action or behavior which an employee wasn’t actually responsible for
  • If an employer makes working conditions intolerable for an employee resulting in constructive discharge

How much time is there to sue an employer after wrongful termination?

State and federal law provide the statutes of limitations on employment claims; statutes vary depending on the type of claim.  The most common types of employment claims fall into three legal categories: contractual claims, tort claims, and discrimination claims. Generally, claims should be initiated by a fired employee immediately following dismissal and with the assistance of an employment attorney.

Discrimiation Claims

The statute of limiations for federal discrimination claims is straightforward across all states. Discrimination charges in violation of Title VII, the Age Discrimination Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act must be submitted to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 days of termination. The EEOC has the right to litigate your claim on your behalf, however this is extremely rare. More typically, the EEOC will issue a Right To Sue Letter which provides permission for a dismissed employee to sue in federal court. Once the EEOC issues a Right To Sue Letter, you have 90 days to file a lawsuit. Where state or local laws which prohibit the same type of discrimination are applicable, the deadline to submit a claim to the EEOC is extended to 300 days. If you are suing under a state law prohibiting discrimination, the statute of limitations may vary.

Contractual Claims

If your lawsuit is based on a breach of employment contract the statute of limitations is determined by state law. Time limits are often different for oral and written contracts. The limit for oral contracts is typically shorter given that cases often rely on testimony and people’s memory rather than concrete evidence. The statute of limitations for contractual claims ranges from two to ten years.

Tort Claims

Personal injury claims, or tort claims, cover wrongful termination in violation of public policy or in the context of defamation or intentional infliction of emotional distress.The statute of limitations for tort claims is determined by state law and range from one to six years, with most states recognizing a two or three year limit.

STATE Written Contract (yrs) Oral Contract (yrs) Tort Claim (yrs)
Alabama 6 6 2
Alaska 3 3 2
Arizona 6 3 2
Arkansas 5 3 3
California 4 2 2
Colorado 3 (2 tortious breach) 3 (2 tortious breach) 2
Connecticut 6 3 2
Delaware 3 3 2
District of Columbia 3 3 3
Florida 5 4 4
Georgia 6 4 2
Hawaii 6 6 2
Idaho 5 4 2
Illinois 10 5 2
Indiana 10 6 2
Iowa 10 5 2
Kansas 5 3 2
Kentucky 10 5 1
Louisiana 10 10 1
Maine 6 6 6
Maryland 3 3 3
Massachusetts 6 6 3
Michigan 6 6 3
Minnesota 6 6 2
Mississippi 6 3 3
Missouri 10 5 5
Montana 8 5 3
Nebraska 5 4 4
Nevada 6 4 2
New Hampshire 3 3 3
New Jersey 6 6 2
New Mexico 6 4 3
New York 6 6 3
North Carolina 3 3 3
North Dakota 6 6 6
Ohio 8 6 2
Oklahoma 5 3 2
Oregon 6 6 2
Pennsylvania 4 4 2
Rhode Island 10 10 3
South Carolina 3 3 3
South Dakota 6 6 3
Tennessee 6 6 1
Texas 4 4 2
Utah 6 4 4
Vermont 6 6 3
Virginia 5 3 2
Washington 6 3 3
West Virginia 10 5 2
Wisconsin 6 6 3
Wyoming 10 8 4

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