How Long Do I Have To Sue My Employer?
Ohio Employment Discrimination Lawyer Best Answer: How long do I have to file a discrimination lawsuit against my employer? Can my employer shorten my time to sue for discrimination or harassment? Can my employer make me sign something that shortens the time I have to file a wrongful termination lawsuit? What can I do if I signed an agreement that shortens the time, I have to file a lawsuit?
I am sure that my experience is not a unique one, but when I was growing up, I had the gym teacher from hell! My high school gym teacher would make us run sprints up and down the gym floor at the end of every class. The worst part was these sprints were timed! My gym teacher would give us 20 seconds to sprint from one end of the gym all the way to the other end and back. If students were not able to make the 20-second deadline my gym teacher would make us all run again, only this time we had 18 seconds to complete the sprints. It never seemed fair to me that my gym teacher could just shorten, what already seemed like a short amount of time, to complete our task.
Things really haven’t changed much since high school. Once you are discriminated against at work or wrongfully fired, that starts the clock. Let’s look at some of those time limits in Ohio and under federal employment laws:
- Workers’ Compensation Retaliation (State Claim Only): 90 days to send notification of claim and 180 days to file a lawsuit.
- Age Discrimination: Under state law, you have 180 days to file a lawsuit; and under federal law, you must file your employment claim with the EEOC within 180 days.
- Whistleblower Claims: State law claims for retaliation or wrongful termination under Ohio R.C. §§ 4113.52 or 3721.24 must be filed in court within 180 days.
- Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”): Unlike Title VII claims, FMLA claims do not have to be filed (and cannot be filed) with the EEOC, but must be filed in court within two years.
- Military Status Claims: The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (“USERRA”) protects our armed forces from being discriminated against in civilian job. These claims must be brought in four years.
- Claims for Race/Color, Religion, Gender, National Origin, Disability, and Pregnancy Discrimination, as well as Sexual Harassment: Under Federal Law, these claims fall under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and must be filed with the EEOC within 180 days. Under Ohio law, these employment discrimination claims, which would include wrongful firing, must be filed in court within six years.
Unfortunately, this is all very confusing – particularly when the clock starts. Obviously, with a wrongful termination claim, the clock would start when the employee is fired. However, if there was ongoing discrimination before that or other adverse employment actions (demotions, failure to promote, harassment) going on before that, you may need to start the clock as of those events – but you may not. It is all to tricky to resolve from just reading the basic on an employment blog (even the best employment lawyer blog in the land!). Therefore, your best course of action is always to contact an employment law attorney directly to get advice.
Even more unfortunately, these issues can get even more complicated. As a large employment law firm, our discrimination attorneys and wrongful termination lawyers have seen a lot of employers exercise their power in a way that reminds me of my high school gym teacher. These employers use the power they have over their employees to shorten the time employees have to exercise their legal rights. Obviously, shortening the time a person has to file a discrimination lawsuit is a lot worse than shortening the time someone has to run across the gym and back. That being said, both situations leave me angry and short of breath.
In Thurman v. DaimlerChrysler Inc., the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeal held that certain language in an agreement between an employer and an employee can shorten the time an employee has to file a lawsuit (in the legal field this timeframe is called the statute of limitations). Specifically, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held that the following language lawful:
READ CAREFULLY BEFORE SIGNING I agree that any claim or lawsuit relating to my service with Chrysler Corporation or any of its subsidiaries must be filed no more than six (6) months after the date of the employment action that is the subject of the claim or lawsuit. I waive any statute of limitations to the contrary.
The Sixth Circuit’s decision in Thurman allowed employers to include in their employment agreements clauses that reduced the statute of limitations, for employment discrimination claims, to as little as six months! I thought to knock two seconds off our time to run sprints was bad. If my gym teacher had limited our time for sprints the way employers try to limit their employee’s statute of limitations our time to run would have gone from 20 seconds to 5 seconds. Talk about unfair!
Even more problematic, these contractual limitations provisions can be buried in handbooks, one of the multitude of documents pushed in front of an employee to sign on the first day of work, or even on the application for the job. Then most of these employers will not remind the employee of this limitations provision when firing the employee. As such, the best course of action is to find an employment law lawyer to help you as quickly as possible.
Fortunately, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which includes oversight over Ohio, recently recognized that there is a bit of a loophole to these statute of limitation shortening agreements. In Logan v. MGM Grand Detroit Casino, the Sixth Circuit held that agreements that shorten an employee’s statute of limitations do not apply to claims brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
As our regular readers know, Title VII is the federal anti-discrimination law. Much like Ohio’s R.C. 4112, Title VII prohibits discrimination based on race/color, religion, gender/sex, age and national origin. Likewise, disability discrimination is prohibited under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). In order to pursue a claim under Title VII, an employee must file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), within 300 days of the last adverse employment action. Side note, before you run off to the EEOC on your own check out some of our blogs on the process and call the right attorney! (See Top Employment Law Attorney: Do Not File With The EEOC Without Doing This First; File With The EEOC Or Get A Lawyer? Call The Right Attorney; Should I Get A Lawyer To Help Me File An EEOC Charge?; and Should I File With The EEOC On My Own? Call The Right Attorney).
In Logan,a former culinary worker for the MGM Grand Casino had signed an employment agreement which contained the following language;
I agree that any claim or lawsuit arising out of my employment with, or my application for employment with, MGM Grand or any of its subsidiaries must be filed no more than six (6) months after the date of the employment action that is the subject of the claim or lawsuit. While I understand that the statute of limitations for claims arising out of an employment action may be longer than six (6) months, I agree to be bound by the six (6) month period of limitations set forth herein, and I WAIVE ANY STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS TO THE CONTRARY.
While she was employed at the MGM Grand Logan experienced employment discrimination based on her gender and retaliation based on her participation in protected activity. (For more on gender discrimination and retaliation based on protected activities see our blogs My Company Doesn’t Allow Women To Be Promoted! and Can I Be Fired For Reporting Discrimination To HR?). As a result of the discrimination and retaliation, she was experiencing Logan had no choice but to quit. Approximately 216 days after she quit Logan filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. After a lengthy EEOC investigation, Logan received a Right to Sue letter and took MGM to court. By the time Logan filed her formal lawsuit over 400 days had passed since her resignation from MGM.
When Logan’s case went before the court MGM argued that Logan had not filed her lawsuit within the six-month time period her employment agreement limited her to. The 6th Circuit disagreed with MGM’s argument. Instead, the court found that that the six-month statute of limitations that Logan had agreed to had no impact on Logan’s right to file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC outside of the agreement’s six-month period. Rather, the court found that the important timeframe was Title VII’s own 300-day statute of limitations. The Sixth Circuit explained their holding saying;
The 300-day limitation period to sue under Title VII is a substantive, rather than procedural, rule. And because it is clear that there can be no prospective waiver of an employee’s rights under Title VII, it naturally follows that the limitation period of this statute is not prospectively waivable as it pertains to litigation.
What you should take away from today’s blog is this: The most important thing is to hurry up and call a lawyer that focuses on employment law to evaluate and protect your claims as soon as possible. Do not wait! Call The Right Attorney!
Secondly, just because your evil boss, manager or supervisor says that your claims are time-barred does not necessarily mean that they really are. Even if you have signed an agreement with your employer that claims to limit the time you have to bring a lawsuit you need to call the right attorney! Your claims may not be lost.
Discrimination and harassment, that is based on race/color, religion, gender/sex, national origin, age, disability discrimination, and military status is illegal under Ohio law R.C. § 4112.02 and federally under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. If you have been discriminated against based on your race, color, religion, sex, military status, national origin, disability, age, or ancestry you should not wait to call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation. If you have signed an agreement that limits the time you have to file a lawsuit do not wait! Call our Cincinnati attorneys at (513) 818-3688. Call our Cleveland attorneys at (216) 291-4744. Call our Columbus attorneys at (614) 335-4685. Call our Toledo attorneys at (419) 960-5926. At The Spitz Law Firm, you will meet with an experienced employment law attorney to find out what your legal rights are and the best way to protect them. Discrimination based on a protected class is illegal, and employers, including supervisors, should be held accountable if they discriminate against their employees in any fashion. It does not matter if you have been wrongfully fired or are still employed, there is no reason to wait to find out what your legal rights are and how to protect yourself from harassment and discrimination.
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