Statute of Limitations: Discrete Discriminatory & Retaliatory Acts

Statute of Limitations: Discrete Discriminatory & Retaliatory Acts


Under the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD), what is the statute of limitations for claims based upon discrete discriminatory and retaliatory acts? Here's my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding).


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WASHINGTON LAW AGAINST DISCRIMINATION

Under the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD), it is an unfair practice, with very few exceptions, for an employer to refuse to hire any person, to discharge or bar any person from employment, or to discriminate against any person in compensation or in other terms and conditions of employment because of age (40+); sex (including pregnancy); marital status; sexual orientation (including gender identity); race; color; creed; national origin; honorably discharged veteran or military status; HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C status; the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability; the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability; and state employee or health care whistleblower status.

It is also an unfair practice for an employer to retaliate against an employee because the employee complained about job discrimination or assisted with a job discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

THREE YEAR STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS

A statute of limitations is a law that bars claims after a specified period; a statute establishing a time limit for suing in a civil case. Black's Law Dictionary 1450-51 (8th ed.2004). Typically, "[d]iscrimination claims must be brought within three years under the general three-year statute of limitations for personal injury actions." Antonius v. King County, 153 Wn.2d 256, 261-62, 103 P.3d (2004) (citing RCW 4.16.080(2)). 

And "where a discrete act of discrimination is alleged, the limitations period runs from the act." Id. at 264. Discrete discriminatory or retaliatory acts include, but are not limited to termination, failure to promote, denial of transfer, refusal to hire, etc. See id. at 264 (citing Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101, 108-13, 122 S.Ct. 2061, 153 L.Ed.2d 106 (2002)).

NOTE: this statute of limitations period only applies to the statutory legal theories described herein. Filing an employment discrimination claim with an administrative agency such as the Washington State Human Rights Commission or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will also involve administrative time limits that may be significantly shorter than the underlying statutory legal theory. In any event, time is critical for employment discrimination claims; speak to an attorney to learn more.

SPECIAL TREATMENT: HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT

The statute of limitations for acts supporting a hostile work environment claim is calculated differently than for discrete discriminatory and retaliatory acts, because the objectionable practice does not necessarily occur on a particular day. I will address this topic in a separate article.

LEARN MORE

If you would like to learn more, then consider contacting an experienced Washington State Employment Discrimination Attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case. Please note: the information contained in this article is not offered as legal advice and will not form an attorney-client relationship with either this author or Williams Law Group, PS; please see our DISCLAIMER.

–gw

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