Employee Victims of Harassment, Discrimination, and Retaliation Now Have Three Years, Instead of One Year, To Seek Justice

Prior to January 1, 2020, employees alleging harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and other claims under California’s Fair Employment Housing Act (“FEHA”) had only one year from the most recent date of unlawful conduct (e.g., sexual harassment, discipline, demotion, refused promotion, termination) to file an administrative complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”), an absolute prerequisite to filing a civil lawsuit for FEHA claims. Unless extended by very limited circumstances, the employee lost the right to sue their employer and to seek damages for these claims if he or she missed the one-year deadline. But after almost 60 years in effect, the one-year statute of limitation has finally been extended.

Recognizing a host of reasons why employee victims cannot always meet the strict one-year deadline – including needing time to fully grasp what happened to them before feeling comfortable to come forward, overcoming fears of retaliation, and being unaware of their rights – Governor Gavin Newson signed Assembly Bill (AB) 9, known as the Stop Harassment and Reporting Extension (SHARE) Act. Beginning on January 1, 2020, employees now have a total of three years from the most recent date of unlawful conduct to file their DFEH complaint. As before, once the employee satisfies this administrative prerequisite, they have the option of having the DFEH investigate their complaint and receiving a “Right to Sue” at the conclusion of the investigation or receiving an immediate Right to Sue. In either event, the employee still has only one additional year from date of the Right to Sue Notice to file their FEHA claims in court.

Importantly, the SHARE Act explicitly does not revive claims that already lapsed under the prior one-year rule (essentially, any unfiled claims that arose before January 1, 2019). The Act did not, however, specifically address which limitation period applies to claims that occurred between January 1, 2019 and December 31, 2019, though the analysis by the Senate Judiciary Committee suggests that the statute of limitation for those claims will expire in 2022 instead of 2020. And going forward, all employee victims will get the benefit of the three-year expansion.

If you believe you have been the victim of harassment, discrimination, or retaliation, and the most recent incident of unlawful conduct occurred on or after January 1, 2019, you may be able to hold your employer legally accountable. Contact the employment law attorneys at Haeggquist & Eck, LLP online or call (619) 342-8000 to learn more about how we may be able to support your claim.