Thinking about suing your employer for one reason or another? There are time limits on how long you have to file an employment lawsuit. In legal terms, this is commonly known as the “statute of limitations.” But unlike most other claim types you can file, state law doesn’t define your deadline to file an employment lawsuit. Instead, it depends on what kind of claim you think you may have against your employer. We’ll explain how long you have to file an employment lawsuit as well as the most common claim types below.
Why Would Anyone File an Employment Lawsuit?
There are many different reasons to file an employment lawsuit claim against your employer, such as:
- Discrimination as a result of age, sex, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion or disability status
- Sexual harassment
- Unpaid overtime/wage theft
- Wrongful termination (i.e., retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim)
- Unemployment compensation (i.e., denial of valid claims or failure to carry required insurance policy under state or federal laws)
- Pensions and/or collective bargaining (primarily affects unionized workers, such as railroad employees, teachers, firefighters, police officers, etc.)
- Workplace safety violations (i.e., failure to maintain OSHA safety standards, provide required protective gear/equipment, etc.)
Not sure how to find a qualified employment lawyer? We can match you with one in your area today for a free, no-obligation legal consultation to discuss your case.
Employment Lawsuit Process for Federal Employees
Federal workers must complete these steps first:
- Contact an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) counselor within 45 days.
- Choose either counseling or an alternative dispute resolution program. If mediation fails, file a formal discrimination complaint.
- File your formal discrimination complaint within 15 days. Your EEO counselor can explain how to do this.
- Your employer then has 180 days to investigate. After that, you have two choices. First, ask the agency to issue a decision on whether or not discrimination occurred. Otherwise, request a hearing before an EEOC administrative judge.
- Once you complete the EEOC’s administrative complaint process, file an employment lawsuit. This lets you pursue legal remedies if you disagree with the EEOC’s final decision.
Federal employees may file an employment lawsuit:
- After 180 days from your complaint with no agency decision/you don’t appeal
- Within 90 days of your agency’s decision date, if you don’t appeal
- Less than 90 days after the EEOC’s appeals decision
- 180 days after you appeal, if the EEOC doesn’t issue a decision
Deadlines For Non-Federal Workers To File Claims Against Employers
For anyone who isn’t a federal worker, your employment lawsuit filing deadlines are as follows:
- 180 days from your workplace discrimination date. If your state has its own anti-discrimination laws with similar protections, then your filing deadline extends to 300 days.
- Either 180 or 300 days in ongoing harassment cases. For one incident, you must file within six months. If it’s ongoing or your state has its own laws, you then have 300 days.
- Two years from the date you received your final discriminatory paycheck. The Equal Pay Act makes it illegal to pay men and women different wages or benefits. If you can prove willful discrimination, the deadline extends to three years after your final paycheck.
- Two years to file an employment lawsuit for minimum wage or unpaid overtime violations. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) extends your deadline to three years for willful violations.
- Six months from the OSHA citation date for workplace safety violations.
Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as Match.com, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity, Mail.com, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.