Employers & Employees Take Note: DFEH Statute of Limitations Runs From Date of Notice, Not Date of Receipt

A decision from the Second District court of appeal is fair warning to any person looking to sue for employment discrimination under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (Cal. Gov. Code, §§ 12900, et seq).  Prior to filing suit, a claimant must submit an administrative claim to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). It is only after that administrative process concludes that a lawsuit may be filed.

However, be careful.  You only have a year after the DFEH file is closed to file suit – and the time begins to run not from the date you receive notice from the DFEH, but from the date of the notice.

While this may sound confusing, consider the facts of Hall v. Goodwill Industries of Southern California, the case in question.  There, an employee had filed a discrimination claim with the DFEH, and the agency issued a “right to sue” letter on December 24, 2004.  Harris received the notice on December 31st, and proceeded to file suit on December 30, 2005, a day prior to the one-year anniversary of his receipt of the notice.

The court dismissed the case, holding that Hall’s time to file ran from the date of the notice (December 24th) and not the date of receipt (December 30th).  Thus, instead of being one day early, Hall was 6 days late.

If you are a claimant or a respondent in a DFEH proceeding, pay close attention to the date of a “right to sue” letter, for the limitations period will be triggered by the date of the letter, regardless of when it was received.

For your convenience, a copy of the Hall case is attached.

We regularly advise employers, unions, and individual employees about issues such as this that arise in the workplace. Feel free to give us a call if you have questions or issues in this area.

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