California Statutes of Limitations for Employment Claims

The attorneys at Markson Pico LLP often receive calls asking about time limits within which claims must be filed in employment cases. The applicable legal time limit is known as the "statute of limitations." Not all employment claims trigger the same limitations period. The deadlines depend on the nature of the claim and a variety of other factors. The following is a short list illustrating some of the typical time limits involved in various employment matters.

  • Discrimination/Harassment/Retaliation under California's Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) (Race, Religion, Gender, Age, Disability, National Origin, Sexual Orientation etc.) – Claims must be filed with California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) within one year of the wrongdoing. After the DFEH issues a Right to Sue Notice, the claimant has one year to file a lawsuit under FEHA in civil court. [Cal. Gov. Code § 12960(d).]
  • Wrongful Termination in Violation of Public Policy – Claims must be filed in court within two years of the job termination. [Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 335.1.]
  • Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress – Claims must be filed in court within two years of the wrongful act. [Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 335.1.]
  • Defamation (Libel/Slander) – Lawsuits must be filed within one year from when it was determined that the defamatory statements were made. [Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 340(c).]
  • Invasion of Privacy — Claims must be filed in court within two years of the wrongful act. [Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 335.1.]
  • Breach of Contract – If the contract is written, the lawsuit must be filed within four years of the date of the breach. If the contract is oral, it must be filed within two years. [Cal. Code Civ. Proc. §§ 337, 339.]
  • Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – Any action must be filed within 2 years of the date of the violation, or within 3 years if the violation was willful. [29 U.S.C. § 2617(c)(1)-(2).]
  • Retaliation in Violation of California Family Rights Act (CFRA)—A civil action under FEHA for retaliation in violation of CFRA must be filed within one year from the date of issuance of a "right-to-sue" letter by the DFEH. [Cal. Gov. Code § 12965(b).]
  • Unpaid Wages and Overtime – In general, claims must be filed within three years of the date that the wages were earned. [Cal. Code Civ. § Proc. 338.]
  • Unpaid Wages under the Unfair Competition Law (UCL), Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200 — Claims for unpaid wages as restitution under the UCL must be filed within four years. [Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17208.]
  • Missed Meal and Rest Periods — Claims for payments under Cal. Labor Code § 226.7 for missed meal and rest period violations must be filed within three years. [Cal. Code Civ. § Proc. 338.]
  • Waiting Time Penalties Under Labor Code Section 203 – A claim for the waiting time penalty under Labor Code section 203 must be filed within three years of termination. [Cal. Labor Code § 203; Pineda v. Bank of America, N.A. (2010) 50 Cal.4th 1389.]
  • Wage Statement Violations — Claims for penalties under Labor Code section 226 for violations of the itemized wage statement requirements must be filed within one year. [Cal. Code Civ. § Proc. 340(a).]
  • California Government Tort Claims – Some claims against the State of California or other public agencies must be presented to the government agency in a particular format before filing the claim in court. Such claims usually must be presented to the government agency within six months. [Cal. Gov. Code § 911.2.]

DISCLAIMER: Be forewarned that this list is provided for illustration purposes only. It is not all inclusive and does not take into account extensions, tolling, challenges in determining the date a claim accrues, the continuing violation theory, so on and so forth. . Also, the law changes and the deadlines below might not be current. If you have a claim, speak with an attorney to determine the applicable limitations period for your claim.

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