Statute of Limitations Starts in Failure-to-Promote Case When Employee Knows of Refusal, Supreme Court of California Holds

The Supreme Court of California recently issued a decision in a California employment case alleging the unlawful refusal to promote, holding that the statute of limitations begins to run when the employee knows or should have known about the employer’s unlawful refusal to promote. In that case, the employee was a customer service representative and dated the executive vice-president of the company. The employee alleged that she refused to have sex with the executive vice-president and ended the relationship. She claims that her employer later denied her several promotions despite being the most qualified candidate, alleging the decision was made because she refused to have sex with the vice-president. The employee filed a claim under the harassment provision of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).

The employer claimed that the employee failed to file the claim within one year of the alleged unlawful practice. The employee claimed in part that another woman was promoted in March 2017 and the promotion went into effect on May 1, 2017. The plaintiff filed her administrative complaint in April 2018. The employee argued that she was required to file within one year of May 1, 2017, when the promotion went into effect. On the other hand, the employer argued the failure to promote took place in March 2017.

Statute of Limitations Under FEHA

The FEHA applies to public and private employers. It prohibits harassment based on a protected class against employees, applicants, volunteers, and contractors. The FEHA also prohibits discrimination against job applicants and employees because of a protected category and retaliation for employers with 5 or more employees. At the time of the unlawful conduct alleged in this case, the FEHA stated that the administrative complaint had to be filed within one year of the unlawful practice or refusal to cooperate. The statute now allows the administrative complaint to be filed within three years of the unlawful practice or refusal to cooperate.

The Court’s Decision

The court of appeals had decided that the statute began to run when the employer offered the position to the other employee and she accepted the promotion. The Supreme Court of California overturned the decision, holding that the statute of limitations started to run when the employee knew or reasonably should have known of the employer’s refusal to promote the employee. The Court considered the history of the statute of limitations set for the claim and decided that the statute should begin to run when the employee knows or reasonably should know of the employer’s decision not to promote the employee. The Court also looked at federal employment anti-discrimination laws in which courts have held that the statute of limitations begins to run when an allegedly unlawful decision was made and communicated to the employee. In those cases, the courts have focused on when the employee is aware or reasonably should have been aware of the employer’s decision in order to avoid prejudicing the employee for a decision of which the employee may not have been aware.

California Employment Lawyers Dedicated to Fighting for Workers

If you believe your rights may have been violated, consult with the California employment lawyers at The Nourmand Law Firm. We have dedicated our practice to protecting employees and their rights for over two decades. Our California employment discrimination lawyers will work hard to make sure that your rights are asserted in a dispute with your employer. The Nourmand Law Firm assists employees in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Riverside Counties, as well as Oakland and Sacramento, among other areas. To schedule a free consultation today, complete our online form or call us at 800-700-WAGE (9243).

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