How Much Time do I have to Bring a Lawsuit Against My Employer in California?

Statute of Limitations for Employment Claims

The statute of limitations for bringing an employment lawsuit in California varies with the type of employment law claim we’re talking about.

Before the employment lawyers at Workplace Rights Law Group explore this further, let’s make sure we understand exactly what a statute of limitations is.

If you would like to explore the possibility of a lawsuit against your employer in California, contact our employment law attorneys online or call (818) 844-5200.

California Statute of Limitations for Common Employment Law Claims

Statutes of limitations are deadlines by which you must file (or otherwise initiate) your legal claim. If you miss that deadline, you risk losing your right to pursue that particular claim simply because you waited too long to act.

Some statutes of limitations are relatively short.

  • If you’re a union employee, you only have six (6) months to file a claim that your employer breached your Collective Bargaining Agreement and that your union breached its duty to fairly represent you,
  • You have just one (1) year from the date that you’ve been harassed, discriminated, or retaliated against to file an administrative complaint of discrimination with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
  • You only one (1) year from your Right to Sue Notice from that department to file a discrimination, harassment, or retaliation lawsuit.
  • You also have only one (1) year to file claims for certain Labor Code penalties,
  • One (1) year to file a lawsuit for defamation.
  • You have two (2) years to file most claims for wrongful termination or retaliation,
  • Two (2) years to sue for breach of an oral contract,
  • Two (2) years to file a claim accusing your employer of outrageous workplace conduct aimed at causing you emotional distress.
  • You have at least three (3) years to file claims for your employer’s failure to pay you the wages or overtime you were legally entitled to,
  • Three (3) years to sue for fraud,
  • And four (4) years to sue for breach of a written employment contract.


Learn about California Termination Laws

Wrongful termination occurs when an employer discharges an employee for the sole purpose of “getting even.” Typically, a retaliatory discharge occurs shortly after an employee reports wrongdoing. Wrongdoing can be anything from reporting an incident of sexual harassment to HR to filing an employment discrimination complaint under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).

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Exceptions to the California Employment Law Statute of Limitations

What if it turns out you’ve waited too long and your statute of limitations has already expired? Does that definitely mean you’ve lost your right to sue forever?

For a few types of employment claims, the law is very unforgiving and the answer, unfortunately, is, Yes.

For many other claims, however, the answer is: not necessarily. Here are some statute of limitations exceptions:

  • First, employers actually have to raise the defense of the statute of limitations for it to do anything, and if they don’t complain about the timing of your claim, then the timing simply doesn’t legally matter.
  • Second, most statutes of limitations can be stretched out if the employer and employee agree to do so. These are called “tolling” agreements. They’re quite common to enter into them. Why? To buy us all more time to negotiate a favorable settlement of our client’s employment claims, so we aren’t pressured (by time) to prematurely file a lawsuit just because of the statute of limitations.
  • Third, there are a number of situations where the law says your statute of limitations stops running and is put on hold because of certain things you or your employer do.
  • And fourth, some statutes of limitations get stretched beyond their normal deadlines if your employer engages in newer bad acts.

Overall, the lesson is this: Because there are statutes of limitations that govern every kind of California employment law claim, it’s always best to find a lawyer and take appropriate action as soon as possible.

Don’t sit on your rights!

However, if for some reason you didn’t do that, don’t give up. Instead, consult a knowledgeable employment attorney in California and see if maybe your case falls within one of those 4 special exceptions to an expired statute of limitations.

Contact a California Employment Lawyer Today

For a free and confidential consultation, please don’t hesitate to call our firm at (818) 844-5200 or send us a message today.

Our employment law attorneys can answer any questions you may have about the California employment statute of limitations and determine if you have a valid claim.

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