Statute of Limitations: How Long You Have to Sue Your Employer

Posted by Amy S. Ramsey | Aug 31, 2023 | 0 Comments

The relationship between employers and employees can sometimes be fraught with challenges. These conflicts sometimes escalate to the point where legal action becomes necessary. When considering legal action against your employer, one crucial aspect to understand is the statute of limitations.

This legal time frame determines how long you have to sue your employer for various employment-related issues. This article will explore the statute of limitations, why you must pay attention to it, and how it applies to different employment-related claims.

What is a Statute of Limitations?

A statute of limitations establishes the maximum amount of time to initiate a lawsuit after a specific event occurs. Its primary purpose is to ensure legal disputes are resolved quickly, preventing the indefinite delay of lawsuits.

In employment law, the statute of limitations comes into play when an employee wishes to sue their employer for various grievances. These grievances could range from workplace discrimination and harassment to wrongful termination and wage disputes. Understanding the statute of limitations is crucial because failing to file a lawsuit within the prescribed time frame may result in the claim being dismissed.

Types of Employment Claims and Their Statute of Limitations

California law has different statutes of limitation, depending on which law you think your employer violated.

Discrimination and Harassment

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits discrimination or harassment based on:

  • Race
  • Religious creed
  • Color
  • Ancestry
  • National origin
  • Physical or mental disability
  • Medical condition
  • Marital status
  • Reproductive health decision-making
  • Genetic information
  • Sex
  • Gender
  • Gender identity or expression
  • Sexual orientation
  • Age (40 and over)
  • Veteran or military status.

The FEHA also prohibits retaliation if you complain or testify about discrimination or harassment or otherwise exercise your rights under the FEHA. You have three years to file a Complaint with the Civil Rights Department (CRD) after the alleged discrimination or harassment, and one year to file your case in court after the CRD issues a right to sue notice. 

Wages and Hours

California Labor Code governs issues such as failure to pay wages or overtime, meal and rest break issues, failure to reimburse necessary business expenses, unlawful deductions from wages, or unequal pay. You have three years to file a Complaint. 

It's essential to understand that your recovery will be limited to three years from when you filed your action. For example, if you terminated employment in July 2021 and filed your lawsuit in July 2023, you can only recover for three years back from July 2023. That would give you just one year for potential recovery, back to July 2020.

If you also allege that your employer committed the Labor Code violation to gain an unfair advantage over other businesses, your claim can go back an additional year under the Unfair Competition Law

If you bring a claim for which the relief includes penalties, as some of the Labor Code provisions do, the statute of limitations is just one year. You also have just one year to bring a claim for failure to provide accurate itemized wage statements.

Wrongful Termination

When an employee files a wrongful termination claim, they allege that the employer fired them for an illegal or improper reason. While employers in California can legally terminate workers for any reason or no reason, they cannot terminate an employee for a reason that violates public policy or is illegal.

If you were fired and allege that your employer terminated you in violation of an established public policy in California, you must file your lawsuit within two years of your termination.

Breach of Employment Contract

Employment contracts, whether written or implied, may outline the terms and conditions of employment. If an employer breaches the contract, the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit will depend on state contract law and the terms of the contract itself.

If you claim breach of contract, the statute of limitations is four years for a written contract and two years for an oral contract. That time generally starts to run from the date the contract was breached.


If you are claiming personal injury arising from assault, battery, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and the like, you have two years from the incident to file a lawsuit.

Libel and slander are forms of defamation that involve making false statements about an individual that harm their reputation. In the context of employment law, defamation claims may arise when false statements are made about an employee that negatively impact their employment status or prospects.

The statute of limitations for a claim for libel or slander typically begins when the defamatory statement is made or published. You have only one year to file a libel or slander claim against your employer.

Turn to Advantage Advocates For Powerful Legal Representation for Your Employment Law Claims

Statutes of limitations are a critical aspect of employment law that determine how long you have to sue your employer for various employment-related claims. 

The most important thing is this. If you think your employer violated the law, contact Advantage Advocates immediately. The old saying about the impact time has on legal claims is that memories fade, documents are lost, and witnesses die. So don't sit on your rights, even if you technically still have time.

Contact us today for a consultation.

About the Author

Amy S. Ramsey

Amy S. Ramsey Founder & Attorney [email protected] 626-310-0101 Amy Ramsey works closely with clients to find proactive, practical solutions to employment law disputes, taking an aggressive, measured approach to put employees back into a position of power. Her extensive employ...


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