Do Employers Have the Power to Shorten Discrimination Claim Deadlines?

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Do Employers Have the Power to Shorten Discrimination Claim DeadlinesEveryone loves getting a new job. A new position comes with a terrific feeling of accomplishment. However, new jobs often require you to complete lots of paperwork. Employers frequently ask new hires to accept or agree to certain employment processes as a condition of employment. Common examples include requiring new employees to agree to arbitrate employment disputes or bring claims only in certain jurisdictions.

As you read your offer letter, you may wonder, Is this legal? You may find yourself wondering about your employer’s practices even if you’re not in a new job. One key thing to look out for is if an employer tries to shorten discrimination claim deadlines. There are many circumstances where an employer can ask you to give up some rights if you want a job. However, discrimination claim deadlines are not something that can be altered. In any job, it’s always best to ask an experienced employment lawyer questions about employment practices.

Can My Employer Force Me to Give Up Certain Rights When I Sign an Employment Agreement?

In some situations, an employer can lawfully ask you to give up certain rights if you want to obtain or keep a job. For example, an employer can require wearing a uniform as part of a job offer. This means you’d give up the right to wear your own clothing at work if you want the job.

Arbitration Clauses

Arbitration clauses are one example of a lawful way for an employer to ask you to give up certain rights. Normally, if you had a legal dispute with your employer, you’d have the right to take them to court. However, arbitration agreements force employer-employee disputes into private venues. However, if an employer tries to use an arbitration agreement to change discrimination claim deadlines, the agreement may not be valid. An experienced employment lawyer can help you understand the nature of the arbitration agreement you’re being presented and your rights under that agreement.

Jurisdictional Limitations

An employer can ask you to agree to bring claims only in certain states or courts. That restriction on your rights is generally legal. However, if you believe that this request is intended to shorten discrimination claim deadlines, then you should speak with an employment lawyer.

For instance, an employer may be physically located in one state where there are generous state discrimination claim deadlines. However, the employer requires employees to agree to file any discrimination claims under a choice of law provision in a state with very short discrimination claim deadlines. If you find yourself in this position and have already signed an offer of employment, speak with an employment lawyer right away.

Post-Employment Restrictions

Your employer may ask you to agree to a non-compete clause or a similar post-employment restriction as early as signing your offer letter. Generally, these kinds of restrictions on your rights are legal. However, if you have questions about whether they are enforceable, speaking to an experienced employment lawyer can help you best understand your specific situation.

Can My Employer Restrict My Rights to File Claims Against Them?

If your employer asks you to waive claims against them or if your employer tries to shorten discrimination claim deadlines—whether in an offer letter, termination letter, or otherwise—speak with an employment lawyer right away. At least one recent case held that employers cannot contractually shorten the time within which their workers can file discrimination claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). Title VII is the foundational law covering federal employment discrimination claims in the United States.

Logan v. MGM Grand Detroit

In a recent case where an employer tried to shorten discrimination claim deadlines, the appeals court ultimately determined that a contract provision that attempts to shorten discrimination claim deadlines is unenforceable.

Facts of the case

Barbrie Logan signed an employment agreement with the MGM Grand Detroit Casino (MGM). In it, she agreed to a six-month limitations period for bringing any lawsuit against MGM. After leaving her job, she sued MGM for Title VII discrimination claims. She filed her lawsuit within the statute of limitations period under the law. However, the claim was filed outside the six-month limitations period she had agreed to in her employment agreement. The district court dismissed the case on summary judgment, upholding the six-month time frame.

Ruling on appeal

Logan appealed the judgment. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit reversed the district court’s decision. The appeals court’s decision cited Title VII’s enforcement scheme as part of its motivation. Filing a Title VII claim involves undertaking multiple, required steps, including filing a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If the EEOC finds that an allegation has merit, then it first needs to make attempts to resolve the employee’s claim informally before the employee can proceed to federal court.

These prerequisites to filing a civil suit for employment discrimination often take far longer than six months to complete. The employee has little control over the timing of this process. The court found that “any alterations to the statutory limitation period necessarily risk upsetting this delicate balance, removing the incentive of employers to cooperate with the EEOC, and encouraging litigation that gives short shrift to pre-suit investigation and potential resolution of dispute.” The court therefore concluded that the statute of limitations in Title VII was a substantive, rather than a procedural right and “that a contractual provision that purports to shorten the limitation period for bringing suit under Title VII is unenforceable.”

Speak With an Experienced Employment Lawyer

Our team at Smithey Law Group, LLC, has over 158 years of collective experience in handling complex employment law matters. We pride ourselves on being thought leaders in all aspects of employment law. When groundbreaking cases come up, we can help you navigate through them and apply new law to your situation. Joyce Smithey and the Smithey Law Group team are here to assist. Contact us today for an initial consultation.