Termination Statute of Limitations: Winning Wrongful Termination Cases

April 8, 2024

If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated, you have to file your lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires. The applicable statute of limitations will depend on the state and the nature of the termination. Different labor laws use different time limits and procedures. In California, for example, wrongful termination claims under state law have to be filed within 2 or 3 years.

Statute of Limitations

A statute of limitations is a law that limits when you can file a particular type of lawsuit. The time limit set by the statute typically begins when the allegedly wrongful conduct occurred. For wrongful termination cases, this is generally the date of termination.

Once the amount of time expires, you lose your right to file your lawsuit and vindicate your legal rights. If you file your particular claim after the statute of limitations has expired, it can be quickly dismissed. All that the former employer has to do is show that the statute of limitations has been violated.

In some cases, the statute can be tolled, or delayed, though this rarely happens in wrongful termination claims.

Many plaintiffs see the statute of limitations as unfair. However, these statutes serve some important purposes. They make you promptly pursue your claim, ensure that evidence is still fresh and easily found, and let the defendant repose once the time period to file the lawsuit has passed.

State or 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 statutes of limitations.

Wrongful Termination Lawsuit

A wrongful termination is when an employer lays off or fires you for an illegal reason. A termination or constructive discharge can be wrongful if it goes against public policy, violates an implied contract of employment, is an act of employment discrimination, done to prevent paying earned wages, or retaliates against you because you exercised a legal right or privilege.

You have some of these employee rights even if you have an at-will employment relationship with your employer.

Successful cases can recover a verdict or wrongful termination settlement that provides compensation for back pay and front pay, harm to your reputation, if the former employer engaged in defamation, attorneys’ fees, and punitive damages.

Wrongful terminations can violate several state and federal laws at once. While this gives you additional legal protections, it can quickly become confusing. Many laws overlap each other, but have nuanced differences that can make or break a case. Getting legal advice from a wrongful termination lawyer from a local law firm is essential to preserve your claim.

Types of Claims in a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit

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 contracts
  • Personal Injury or Tort Claims
  • Discrimination Claims

For contractual or personal injury claims, state law will determine the applicable statutes of limitations. Discrimination claims brought in a wrongful termination lawsuit follow federal law for purposes of determining the applicable statute of limitations.

Contract Claims

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 either tort claims or civil wrong claims. Some examples of the situations that may give rise to such claims include defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, or wrongful termination that violates public policy

These will also be governed by state law for purposes of determining the applicable statute of limitations period.

Discrimination Claims

Discrimination claims arise in wrongful termination lawsuits when an event occurs that violates the Age Discrimination Act, California Fair Employment and Housing Act, or California Family Rights Act. It is possible that the same event may be prohibited under state law as well.

Statute of Limitations for a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit - California State Law

The statute of limitations for a wrongful termination lawsuit that are filed under one of California’s employment laws will depend on the nature of the claim. Generally, though, you will have either 2 or 3 years to file your lawsuit in state court.

Statute of Limitations - Up to Two Years

You have 2 years to file wrongful termination lawsuits that are grounded in breach of contract claims. These include discharges that violated an oral or written contract that specified when you could be discharged, or broke an employment contract that specified how long it would last.

You also have 2 years to file lawsuits based on a violation of public policy. Terminations can be wrongful for violating public policy when you are fired for exercising a legal right or privilege, like unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or California Family Rights Act (CFRA), refusing to break the law at the employer’s request, reporting potential legal violations in the workplace, like repeated violations of anti-discrimination laws based on national origin, genetic information, gender identity, or sexual orientation, or performing a legal obligation.

Statute of Limitations - Up to Three Years

In California, you have 3 years to file wrongful termination lawsuits that arise under the following laws:

California Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN Act), which covers mass layoffs, major relocation, or plant closure, and California Labor Code 1102.5.

You also have 3 years to file an administrative complaint for violations of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).

Wrongful Termination Lawyer

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 on filing.

An attorney greatly benefits your wrongful termination case because you will be able to start the wrongful termination case process, review your written contracts, send a sue letter, file a lawsuit within the time limit, and protect your confidentiality through the attorney client relationship.

Contact Us!

Don't let the clock dictate your legal options. Remember, time is of the essence in wrongful termination claims.

To speak with one of our attorneys on your legal options regarding 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.

Trust Freeburg & Granieri, APC to guide you through every step of the process and fight vigorously on your behalf.


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