Thursday, May 8, 2008

Statute of Limitations on Discrimination and Harassment Claims

Discrimination and harassment are two of the most common concern in the employment arena. Annually, hundreds of employees are dismissed because of these causes.

Through the years, these suits have been the basis of wrongful termination suits. Millions of dollars are spent on settlements or court proceedings due to these grounds.

While an employee may have the cause of action to sue, he or she must also consider whether its filing is within the statute of limitations or not. Otherwise, the case is useless.

In the Richards case (2001 WL 951286, August 23, 2001), the California Supreme Court found a new criterion for the application of the "continuing violations" doctrine on cases regarding claims of disability discrimination and harassment under the Federal Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).

The court opined that, in harassment and discrimination claims, employees might be allowed to introduce evidence of instances of discrimination and harassment. These incidents may be those that are normally time barred pursuant to the 1- year limitation provided under FEHA.

This development has created, at least for majority of cases, an indefinite period when claim for harassment or discrimination commences. The employee must only establish certain facts to be entitled to it.

This court decision, to my mind, is another victory for the employees. This is because incidents that constitute harassment or discrimination that occurred months or even years earlier may still be alleged to establish a claim.

Employees must be given time to assert their claims. This must serve as a warning to employers who blatantly violate the right of the workers to security of tenure or livelihood by their whimsical and capricious reasons of dismissing employees.