Statute of Limitations for Discrimination and Harassment Cases

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You may have heard the term “statute of limitations” bandied about over the years but have no idea what it actually means. Allow us to clear up any confusion. A statute of limitations is a deadline by which you must initiate legal action on any given matter or forever forfeit your right to seek a remedy through the courts. The legislature carves out a statute of limitations for almost every legal action. The exact statute of limitations applicable to your case varies between states, as well as at the federal level. So it is critical to speak to an attorney as soon as you believe you have a cause of action.

Even if you think your case is quickly resolvable, the legal process is a slow-moving creature. There are procedural hurdles that must be overcome by your attorney in many cases, even before you can file suit. In other words, there is legwork that your attorney needs adequate time to accomplish before you can file your claim. So never procrastinate. In cases of harassment and discrimination, it is vitally important to get the ball rolling as quickly as possible.

Title VII of The Civil Rights Act of 1964

The Civil Rights Act is really the first comprehensive law enacted to protect certain classes of people from discrimination and harassment. This landmark Act also made it illegal for employers to retaliate against anyone who filed a discrimination claim. As amended, the Act prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, color, sex, sexual orientation, sexual identity, or national origin. In 1973, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act added childbirth, pregnancy, and any related medical conditions to that protection. The Act covers all federal government employers and private-sector employers with 15 or more employees.

Private Sector Employees

Title VII requires you to report the incident to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 days. However, this limit is extended to 300 days in some jurisdictions, including Maryland. From there, the EEOC investigates the claim’s validity and may attempt mediation to settle with the parties. If the EEOC finds sufficient evidence of discrimination, they issue a right to sue letter. From there, the statute of limitations for harassment gives you only 90 days to file a lawsuit.

Federal Employees

Federal employees have 45 days from the last incident to file a report with their agency’s EEOC counselor. That counselor may try to achieve a resolution internally. If the parties cannot reach a resolution, the counselor issues a Notice of Right to File. Then you have only 15 days to file a formal complaint with the EEOC. From there, the EEOC launches an investigation, which usually includes a hearing, before issuing its findings. Once the EEOC issues its findings, you can accept the outcome or file suit in federal court.

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act

This Act works in much the same way as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Act makes it illegal to discriminate against an employee based on mental or physical impairment or to harass or retaliate against that employee for filing a discrimination claim. It also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for their disabled employees. This Act covers private-sector employees and non-federal government employees.

Private-Sector Employees

Just like with Title VII, you must first file the initial complaint with the EEOC within 180 days (extended to 300 days if state or local anti-discrimination laws allow). From there, the process is the same as the process involved for Title VII filings. You must wait to hear from the EEOC. Once you receive its findings, you have 90 days to file.

Federal Employees

There is no legal action available for federal employees under the Americans with Disabilities Act. If you are a federal governmental employee, you must follow the procedures outlined under Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act described below.

Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act

Although not identical to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 provides similar protections for federal government employees with disabilities. Just like with Title VII, it also forbids retaliation or harassment against employees who file a claim. There is no recourse for private-sector employees under this Act because they receive protection under the ADA as outlined above.

Federal Employees

Federal employees must first contact their agency’s EEOC counselor within 45 days of the last incident. From there, the claim follows the same process for federal employees as outlined in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Maryland Law

In October of 2019, Marylanders gained more protections against harassment and discrimination than is granted under the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. At that time, the legislature expanded the Maryland Fair Employment and Practices Act (FEPA) to include independent contractors as “employees” in anti-discrimination claims. It also creates a broader definition of harassment and protects employees of smaller companies.

Lawmakers also changed the statute of limitations for discrimination or harassment. Instead of one year, employees now have two years from the harassment date to file a complaint with the Maryland Commission of Civil Rights (MCCR). If MCCR does not satisfactorily resolve the claim, the next step is to file a lawsuit. The time allotment for filing suit in state civil court was also increased to three years from the date of harassment.

Statute of Limitations for Harassment Help

There is much more to know about how and when you must file to avoid violating the statute of limitations for discrimination and harassment claims. The details are too extensive to cover here, but our attorneys know all the ins and outs of time limits imposed for harassment claims. Let our compassionate and experienced employment legal team at the Smithey Law Group guide you through these complex and often murky waters. We protect your rights every step of the way, and when you win, we win. So call us today at 410-919-2990 or contact us online to discuss your case. We look forward to hearing from you.

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Joyce Smithey, a seasoned employment and labor law attorney, has over 22 years of experience representing both employers and employees in Maryland and D.C. Her practice, rooted in a deep understanding of employment law, spans administrative hearings to federal litigation. Joyce's approach is comprehensive, focusing on protecting client interests while ensuring legal compliance. A Harvard graduate, her career began in Fortune 500 companies, transitioning to law after a degree from Boston University School of Law. Joyce's expertise is recognized by numerous awards, including Maryland’s Top 100 Women. At Smithey Law Group LLC, which she founded in 2018, Joyce continues to champion employment rights, drawing on her rich background in law and business.

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