Updated: September 30, 2021
The right to bring a claim arising from an employer’s violation of a labor and employment law is subject to time limits, known as statutes of limitations. The applicable statute of limitations varies depending on the type of claim and where the claim is brought. A complaint can be filed with a federal, state, or local agency as well as made in court. Each claim has its own statute of limitations.
Under the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL), it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate based on an individual’s age, race, creed or religion, color, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity/expression, military status, sex, disability, predisposing genetic characteristics, familial status, marital status, or status as a victim of domestic violence.
Under the NYSHRL, a discrimination complaint can be filed against an employer with the New York Division of Human Rights (DHR) within one year of the last alleged act of discrimination (or three years for gender-based harassment). Alternatively, an employee can opt to not file a complaint with DHR and instead bring a lawsuit in the New York State Supreme Court. This must be done within three years from the last act of discrimination.
New York City employees who are victims of discrimination may seek redress under the New York City Human Rights Law. Complaints should be filed with the Law Enforcement Bureau of the NYC Commission on Human Rights (CHR) within one year of the last alleged act of discrimination (or three years for gender-based harassment). However, as with DHR, employees can instead opt to bring a lawsuit in the New York State Supreme Court within three years from the last act of discrimination.
Federal law also provides protection from discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, Americans with Disabilities Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Discrimination claims can be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 300 days. A federal employment discrimination case cannot be filed in court without first going to the EEOC and obtaining a “Notice of Right to Sue.” Thereafter, a litigant can bring an action in federal or state court within 90 days of the date the notice was received. If a lawsuit is not filed within 90 days, the individual may be prevented from pursuing the suit, by law.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older from discrimination in the workplace. Under the ADEA, “it is unlawful to discriminate against a person because of his or her age with respect to any term, condition, or privilege of employment, including hiring, firing, promotion, layoff, compensation, benefits, job assignments, and training.” For New York employees, a federal claim for age discrimination under the ADEA must also be filed with the EEOC within 300 days of the last act of discrimination. If an individual believes his or her employment was terminated because of age, the statute of limitations begins to run from the day of termination. One distinction for age discrimination claims is that an individual does not have to wait for a “Notice of Right to Sue” in order to proceed with a suit in court and can file after 60 days from the day the charge was initially filed.
A claim related to payment of wages (minimum wage, overtime, equal pay, wage theft) under New York State labor law must be filed within six years of the alleged violation. However, if an administrative action is filed, the statute of limitations for a lawsuit is tolled from the date the administrative action is filed until either (1) an order to comply issued by the Commissioner becomes final or (2) the date the Commissioner notifies the employee the investigation has concluded when no order has been issued.
Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), claims must be brought within two years of the alleged violation in most cases. However, the statute of limitations is three years if the court determines that the violation was “willful.”
The New York Paid Family Leave Benefits Law (NYPFL) permits employees to file claims for retaliation to the Workers’ Compensation Board within two years of the discriminatory action.
The federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) permits an employee to file a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division within a reasonable time of when the employee discovers that his or her FMLA rights have been violated. If the employee opts to sue, generally, the lawsuit must be filed within two years after the last action that the employee believes was in violation of the FMLA, or three years if the violation was willful.
There are other labor and employment laws in addition to the ones discussed above. If you have been the victim of an adverse employment action, it is important to speak to an attorney to discuss what laws may have been violated and how best to seek redress.