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How Long Do You Have to File a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit in California?

A statute of limitations sets a time period for filing a lawsuit. After it runs out, you are barred from filing a claim in most instances. Statutes of limitations are in place to ensure you don’t delay making a claim for damages, which could lead to lost evidence, a lack of relevant documentation, or witnesses not accurately recalling key details. For a wrongful termination claim in California, the statute of limitations varies depending on the type of claim and circumstances involved.

Violation of Public Policy

If a wrongful termination involves a violation of public policy, the statute of limitations is two years from when the termination took place. A challenge here is California is an at-will employment state. Employers have the legal authority to terminate employees at any time, for any reason. In violating public policy, an employer fires a worker for engaging in an activity that is protected under the law, such as taking family/medical leave or reporting unsafe working conditions.

Discrimination and Harassment

The deadline to file a discriminatory wrongful termination claim varies depending on the law. Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which is enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employees have 180 days from the day they are terminated to file a charge with the EEOC. This general rule applies with various federal anti-discrimination laws. If you decide to file a charge with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing, you have a 300-day deadline.

If neither agency resolves the charge, a Right to Sue notice is issued and you have 90 days to file a civil action in court. Filing a charge under state law is different than with federal law. Under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), an employee can file a wrongful termination charge related to discrimination for up to a year after the notice is issued.

Breach of Contract

For wrongful termination based on violations of a written or implied contract, you have up to four years to file a claim. The statute of limitations begins from the date the breach occurred. However, the time limit is two years from the breach of contract if it is implied rather than written. Implied contractual arrangements are based on actions or behaviors on the part of an employer and employee.

Labor Code Violations

If you’ve been wrongfully terminated and are owed minimum wages, overtime pay, or commission, you must file a claim within three years of having earned those wages. Claims must be filed with the Labor Commissioner or in court. If you take the claim to court, you can gain a year by initiating a cause of action under Business and Professions Code Section 17200. This effectively extends your right to file a claim to up to four years after owed wages are due.

Other Deadlines

Union employees have just six months to file a claim against an employer that breached a Collective Bargaining Agreement or failed to represent them. There is a three-year statute of limitations to sue for fraud while you have one year to sue an employer for defamation. For discrimination claims under the California Equal Pay Act based on gender or claims involving violations of the Family Medical Leave Act, statues range from two to three years.

Contact Lawyers for Justice

Knowledgeable in every state and federal labor law, our Los Angeles employment lawyers can help with your wrongful termination case. We’ll determine what statute of limitations applies to your claim and whether it qualifies for any exceptions. Either way, our wrongful termination attorneys will provide the advice and representation needed to uphold your rights and recover compensation. Schedule your free consultation by calling 818-587-8423.