The statute of limitations refers to the time period someone has to file a claim from the triggering event that gives rise to that claim. Filing a lawsuit during the statute of limitation time period, which can range anywhere from two to fifteen years depending upon the claim and the applicable law, is a very important procedural step that you want to get correct. If the claim is filed after the statute of limitations period, then the case will likely be dismissed.
With wrongful termination lawsuits, there is a different statute of limitations depending on the type of claim that is filed. Some will be determined by state law while others are a matter of federal law.
Wrongful Termination Lawsuit Claims – Basics
Wrongful termination occurs when there is a termination of employment that is based upon some unlawful reason. There can be a few types of claims that result from a case of wrongful termination. Understanding the types of claims that may be brought in wrongful termination lawsuits is the first step to understanding the statute of limitations that applies.
State and Federal Law
For some of the claims that may be brought in a wrongful termination lawsuit, state or local law will determine the statute of limitations. Federal law is important for discrimination claims for purposes of wrongful termination lawsuits and the applicable statute of limitations.
Types of Claims in Wrongful Termination Lawsuits
There are generally three areas in which a claim brought as part of a wrongful termination lawsuit may fall under, which include:
- Contractual Claims – Oral or Written
- Personal Injury or Tort Claims
- Discrimination Claims
For contractual or personal injury claims, state law will determine the applicable statute of limitations. Discrimination claims brought in a wrongful termination lawsuit follow federal law for purposes of determining the applicable statute of limitations.
Contractual claims may arise from an oral or written agreement. Generally, the statute of limitations will be shorter for claims that are based on an oral agreement. However, these types of wrongful termination claims will have a statute of limitations period based on the applicable state’s law. As such, the statute of limitations will vary depending upon what state the claim originated.
Personal Injury or Tort Claims
In wrongful termination lawsuits, personal injury claims are a type of tort claim or civil wrong claim. Some examples of the situations that may give rise to such claims include:
- Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
- Wrongful Termination that Violates Public Policy
These will also be governed by state law for purposes of determining the applicable statute of limitations period.
Determining the Statute of Limitations in a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit
Discrimination claims arise in wrongful termination lawsuits when an event occurs that violates the Age Discrimination Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VII, or Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. These are all federal laws. It is possible that the same event may be prohibited under state law as well.
Discrimination Claims and Statute of Limitations
As an initial matter, a discrimination claim brought because of an event that violated one of these federal laws must be filed with the EEOC (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) within 180 days following the event that gives rise to the claim. If the state or locality where the event occurs has a similar law prohibiting the same type of discrimination in the workplace, then the time limit for this first filing may be extended to 300 days.
The EEOC will then issue a right to sue letter. Following this letter, someone bringing a discrimination claim pursuant to a federal law violation has 90 days to file their lawsuit.
If the discrimination claim is brought only under a state law prohibiting that type of discrimination, then there will be a different statute of limitations. For these matters, the applicable state and local employment laws will need to be consulted.
The statute of limitations for contract claims, whether written or oral, will depend on the applicable state law. While most states have a shorter statute of limitations period for claims based upon oral agreements compared to that for written contracts, the statute of limitations for either will depend on local state law. This can vary greatly and ranges from two to fifteen years. If you are unsure what type of claim you may have in a wrongful termination lawsuit or if you need clarification on what state law is applicable, then you may want to consider contacting an experienced employment attorney.
Personal Injury or Tort Claims
For these types of personal injury claims, the statute of limitations is also determined by state law. While the states will vary on the time limit that you must file your wrongful termination lawsuit if it involves a personal injury or tort claim, the typical time limit ranges between two to three years for most states.
It is worth noting that if you have multiple types of claims, then there may be different statutes of limitations for each claim in a potential wrongful termination lawsuit. This may impact whether you can bring some or all the claims within a set time period, which may be determined under local, state or federal law.
Given the importance of bringing your claims within the time required by applicable law so as not to have your case automatically dismissed, if you are unsure about your claims or the law that applies then you may want to consult with an attorney.
Figuring out the applicable statute of limitations for a claim or claims in a wrongful termination lawsuit can be confusing, but it is very important to ensure that your case has a chance to be heard. If you are unsure of whether you have a claim, what type of claim you may have, the applicable law (whether it is state or federal), and how long you have to bring a wrongful termination lawsuit for the claims based on your circumstances, then you should consult with an experienced attorney.
To speak with one of our attorneys on the statute of limitations for bringing a wrongful termination lawsuit based on your facts, please fill out our contact form. We will follow up with you as soon as possible to help you understand the best next steps.