Time does not stop for anyone. There are time limits for filing claims against your employer. In fact, state and federal claims have different deadlines for different types of claims. When pursuing a claim against your employer, it is important to note the statute of limitations for the claim you intend to pursue. The biggest mistake I see employees make is waiting too long to pursue a claim. If the statute of limitations for your claim has expired, you will not be able to pursue your claim – even if you have a strong claim. There’s no way around it. Below are some of the most common employment-related claims and each claim’s respective statute of limitations.
Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Harassment, Hostile Work Environment, and Retaliation.
Claims of discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, or retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, must first be filed with the United State Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). A complaint with the EEOC must be filed within 300 days of the adverse employment action. An adverse action can range from a write-up to termination. If you do not file a charge of discrimination or retaliation with the EEOC within 300 days of the adverse action, you lose the right to pursue your claims in court.
On the other hand, a claim of discrimination, harassment, hostile work environment, or retaliation under the Texas Labor Code, must be filed with the Texas Workforce Commission (“TWC”) within 180 days of the adverse action. The only exception to the 180-day rule is a claim of sexual harassment, which must be filed within 300 days of the sexual harassment.
42 US Code § 1981 (“Section 1981”) expands the time limit for filing a claim of race discrimination and/or retaliation in court. If you have a race discrimination and/or retaliation claim and missed the EEOC and/or TWC filing deadlines, you can still pursue your race discrimination and/or retaliation claim under Section 1981, which has a significantly longer statute of limitations than claims brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Texas Labor Code. Indeed, you have up to four years from the adverse employment action to file a race discrimination and/or retaliation claim under Section 1981.
Civil assault claims in Texas have a two-year statute of limitations. For example, if one of your co-workers hits you at work, you may pursue a civil assault claim against your employer and/or co-worker. To pursue such a claim, you must file a lawsuit within two-years of the date on which the assault occurred.
Sexual assault claims, which are typically claims of rape, have an expanded statute of limitations. The civil statute of limitations for sexual assault claims is five years from the date on which the sexual assault occurred.
Although assault claims have a longer statute of limitations than most employment-related civil claims, time remains of the essence. To avoid losing important evidence or witnesses forgetting key information, you should pursue your claim as soon as practicable.
Breach of Contract.
Breach of written contract claims may be brought against an employer within four-years of the breach. However, as discussed above, I recommend pursuing a breach of contract claim as soon as you become aware of the breach. The longer you wait to pursue a claim, the more likely relevant evidence may be destroyed, or important information may be forgotten.
Retaliation under the Texas Health & Safety Code and the Texas Family Code.
Chapter 161 of the Texas Health & Safety Code makes it unlawful to terminate or otherwise retaliate against an employee for reporting a violation of law. Similarly, section 261.101 of the Texas Family Code makes it unlawful to terminate or otherwise retaliate against an employee for reporting abuse or neglect of a child. If you believe you have been unlawfully retaliated against because you reported a violation of law under either the Texas Health & Safety Code or the Texas Family Code, you must file suit against your employer within 180 days of the retaliatory act. Failure to meet this deadline would bar your claim.
Workers’ Compensation Retaliation.
A workers’ compensation retaliation claim under Chapter 451 must be filed within two years after the cause of action accrues. A claim “accrues” when the employee becomes aware of the retaliation or when a reasonable person should have known of the retaliation.
Retaliation under the Occupational Safety & Health Administration.
Under Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety & Health Act of 1970, employees are protected from retaliation for raising workplace health and safety concerns and for reporting injuries and illnesses. Complaints of retaliation under Section 11(c) of the Act must be filed within 30 days of the adverse employment action. Under the Act, examples of adverse actions are: (1) firing or lay off; (2) blacklisting; (3) demotion; (4) denial of overtime or promotion; (5) discipline; (6) denial of benefits; (7) failure to hire or rehire; (8) intimidation/threats; (9) reassignments affecting prospects for promotion; and (10) reduction in pay or hours.
There are some exceptions to the general 30-day filing deadline for retaliation claims under the Act. For example, under the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (“STAA”), which is enforced by Occupational Safety & Health Act (“OSHA”), truck drivers and other workers affecting commercial motor vehicle safety or security are protected from retaliation for reporting, or engaging in activities related to, certain motor vehicle safety, health, or security conditions. A complaint of retaliation under STAA must be filed within 180 days of the adverse employment action.
Claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) requires almost all employers to provide minimum hourly wages and premium overtime pay to nonexempt employees. The statute of limitations period for ordinary FLSA violations is two years from the date you knew or should have known of the violation. However, in instances where an employer willfully violated the FLSA, a cause of action may be brought within three years of the violation. Willful conduct exists where the employer knew or showed reckless disregard for its violation of the FLSA.
Claims under the Family & Medical Leave Act.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. It also requires that their group health benefits be maintained during that leave. The FMLA prohibits employers from interfering with an employee’s rights under the FMLA or retaliating against an employee who exercised rights under the FMLA. If an employee suffers an adverse employment action because he or she requested or took leave under the FMLA, the employee has a right to file a private lawsuit under the FMLA. Suits brought under the FMLA must generally be filed within two years after the last action that the employee believes was in violation of the FMLA, or three years if the violation was willful.