Statute of Limitations for Filing a Lawsuit for Wrongful Termination

Filing a wrongful termination lawsuit against a former employer can be a fairly nerve-wracking thing to do. After all, your new main concern may be to find a new job or to focus on other things that are taking time in your life. Perhaps emotions are running high and you do not feel emotionally prepared to deal with your former employer with regard to the wrongful termination that flipped your life upside-down. Taking the time to take care of yourself is important, but time may be against you if you are thinking about filing a wrongful termination lawsuit or claim against your former boss.

Just like the food that you purchase from the grocery store, there exists an expiration date on your right to file a lawsuit against your employer. This expiration date is called the “statute of limitations” and it not only applies to wrongful termination, but most aspects of the law. A statute of limitations is the specific amount of time that is allotted for filing lawsuits. In most instances, once the statute of limitations has expired, the victim is not allowed to initiate a lawsuit against the offending party. In this case, for example, should the statute of limitations expire on your wrongful termination, you will be barred from initiating a lawsuit.

The statute of limitations is the deadline to file a lawsuit. The SOL for filing a wrongful termination lawsuit in California depends on the circumstances of that claim – in other words, it depends on the reason that your employer terminated you.

Wrongful Termination Resulting From Harassment, Discrimination, & Retaliation
If your former employer wrongfully terminated you from your position based on either harassment, discrimination, and retaliation, you may have the right to file a lawsuit against your employer for their breaking federal and state laws that give workers certain protections against such actions.

Discrimination: An employer cannot terminate you based on your person. Meaning they cannot fire you for race, ethnicity, country of origin, religion, sex, genetic information, age, disability. Some states offer more protections like sexual orientation and gender identity. For example, an employer cannot terminate an employee simply because she is pregnant or will become pregnant and is considered sex discrimination.

Retaliation: An employee has a right to notify agencies of any illegal or unsafe activity that is going on in the workplace without fearing for their job. An employer cannot retaliate against this employee by terminating them. For example, if a company is dumping dangerous chemicals into a protected body of water and an employee brings this illegal activity to light and alerts an environmental agency, the employer cannot terminate this employee.

First, you will have to file a charge of discrimination with the agencies Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within one calendar year of when the harassment, discrimination, and retaliation occurred. Once you file your claim with the DFEH or the EEOC, the statute of limitations no longer applies while the investigation is taking place.

After your file the charge against your former boss with either agency, you will be issued a right-to-sue letter. If you receive your letter from the DFEH, you will have 12 months to file the lawsuit in court. The right-to-sue letter that comes from the EEOC expires much faster. Time period for filing a wrongful termination lawsuit or claim against your former boss, from the date of this letter, gives you 90 to 300 days, depending on your claim. Your attorney can shortcut the entire process by obtaining the right-to-sue letter right away and initiate the lawsuit as soon as possible.

Violation of Public Policy
The state of California is an “at-will” employment state. What does this mean?

Being at “at-will” state means that an employer can terminate an employee without a just cause. However, an employer cannot simply dismiss an employee for any reason, it is considered wrongful termination if the employer violates private policy. Public policy is violated when the employee is terminated for doing something that is within their right and protected by the constitution or some state or local statute. Legally protected activities that are within employees’ rights include such things like employment discrimination, violation of medical or family leave, or unsafe work environments.

The deadline for filing a lawsuit for illegal firing against your former employer who violated public policy and terminated you for doing what was within your right to do, you have two years to file a lawsuit in court from the date of the wrongful termination.

Termination Based on Breach of Written or Implied Contract
When there is an employment contract in place, the employer is bound to that contract. If they breach that contract and terminate you against certain protections the contract stated, it may be considered to be wrongful termination. If an employee wants to file a wrongful termination lawsuit or claim against their former boss, they have up to four years from the date of the contractual breach, NOT the date of the termination.

Not every place of employment has an employment contract, however. But there may have been an implied contract based on the behavior of the employer. If there is not contract, but rather an implied contract, the employee has two years from the date of the breach to file the charge.

Free Consultation and Zero Fee Guarantee

If you believe that your termination was unjust and illegal and you want to file a lawsuit against your employer, you may want to talk to an employment lawyer. A lawyer can let you know the statute of limitations, and review your case and let you know if your case is strong, or not. With California Labor Law Employment Attorneys Group, you will have free consultation and a zero fee guarantee. This means we will sit down with you and listen to your case and give you our initial thoughts on whether or not you have a strong case. A zero fee guarantee means that unless we win the case, you do not pay, which puts all of the financial risk on us, not you.