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California expands time to bring employment discrimination actions

On Behalf of | Apr 14, 2023 | Employment Disputes, Employment Law

Working professionals experience employment law issues routinely, but they deserve to have their voice heard. California is considered an employee-friendly state, but its legal processes can seem intricate and overwhelming to people unfamiliar with the legal protections and the process to take advantage of those protections. If you are an employee in California who has faced discrimination, harassment or retaliation at work, you may have more time to pursue your legal rights than you think.

Stop Harassment and Reporting Extension Act

A recent law, known as the SHARE Act, has extended the deadline for filing a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing from one year to three years from the date of the alleged violation. This is in line with other California civil claims.

This gives employees more time to assess their situation, seek legal advice and file their complaint with the DFEH. However, it does not extend the deadline for filing a lawsuit in court after receiving a right to sue letter from the DFEH, which remains at one year.

The SHARE Act also does not revive claims that have already expired. It only applies to claims that are not yet time barred as of January 1, 2020, when the law took effect. Therefore, if an employee experienced discrimination before January 1, 2019, they would still be subject to the one-year deadline and would not benefit from the SHARE Act.

Fair Employment and Housing Act

The DFEH is the state agency that enforces the FEHA, which prohibits discrimination, harassment and retaliation based on protected characteristics (race, sex, disability, age, religion, sexual orientation, etc.). The FEHA covers employers with five or more employees and applies to both public and private sectors. The FEHA also provides remedies for employees who have been wronged (reinstatement, back pay, damages and attorney fees).

Filing a complaint

Before an employee can file a lawsuit under the FEHA, they must first file a complaint with the DFEH and obtain a right-to-sue letter. The complaint must be verified, meaning signed under penalty of perjury. The DFEH then has 150 days to investigate the complaint and decide whether to file a lawsuit on behalf of the employee or issue a right to sue letter. Employees have one year from the date of the right-to-sue letter to file a lawsuit. The SHARE Act does not change these procedures.

The SHARE Act extension is a welcome development for employees who have faced discrimination, harassment or retaliation at work. However, it does not eliminate the need for employees to act promptly and diligently in pursuing their claims.