What is the statute of limitations for bringing an employment lawsuit?

By Douglas Lipsky

Well, the statute of limitations for bringing an employment lawsuit is really gonna vary based on the type of claim you’re bringing. So for example, if you have an employment contract that’s been breached, you’re basically going to look to the New York Law of Contracts which is gonna say six years. So you would have six years. If, however, you have a discrimination claim and you’re talking about a much shorter time frame. So for a discrimination claim, even there you have a couple of options. If you choose to go to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which you must do if you want to be in federal court. If you want to bring an employment discrimination claim to federal court you have to first go through the EEOC. And to do that you have a limit of 300 days. So for example, if you’re claiming that you or your discrimination came in the form of unlawful termination, that you were discriminated against in your termination you would have 300 days from the day you were terminated to file a charge with the EEOC. And after the EEOC finished processing it, you would get something called a notice of suit rights, and then from there upon receipt of the notice of suit rights, you would have 90 days to file in court. So those are the statute of limitations that apply to an EEOC charge.

If you opted not to go to federal court and you want to just go to state court, you’re free to do that. You can only bring state claims, you can’t bring a federal claim but you could bring state claims and/or New York City claims and the statute of limitations on those would be three years. So you’d have considerably more time if you opted to bring an action in state court as opposed to federal court. Outside of those claims, if we start talking about things like wage and hour, FMLA, Equal Pay Act, those all sort of borrow one another statute of limitations and the rule there with regard to wage and hour, Equal Pay Act claims, and FMLA claims is that you have a two-year statute of limitations which can be extended to three years if the violation is proven to be willful. One wrinkle and wage and hour is, you know, the Fair Labor Standards Act is the Federal Law for wage an hour, that’s the two to a three-year statute of limitations, I just mentioned, if you want to file in New York Labor Law claim so under the state law for violations, that’s a much longer statute of limitations that’s a six-year statute of limitations.

About the Author
Douglas Lipsky is a co-founding partner of Lipsky Lowe LLP. He has extensive experience in all areas of employment law, including discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, wrongful discharge, breach of contract, unpaid overtime, and unpaid tips. He also represents clients in complex wage and hour claims, including collective actions under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and class actions under the laws of many different states. If you have questions about this article, contact Douglas today.