Keep lawsuit clock on your side: Make sure employees know exact date of employment action

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in Employment Law

Employees only have a short period of time to file their initial dis­crimi­na­tion claims. For example, em­­ployees must file many federal discrimination claims with the EEOC within 300 days of discharge or other significant job change.

The clock starts ticking as soon as the employee knows or should have known about some material, potentially adverse job change. Of course, if you never inform the employee, the clock never starts, which gives the employee an indefinite amount of time to complain.

That’s why you need to be absolutely clear to employees when you make a job change—and note it in your files.

Recent case: Wendy King worked for a federal government agency. After she refused a reassignment, King learned via letter on Feb. 27 that she would be terminated effective April 3. It wasn’t until May 30 that she complained about discrimination to the agency’s Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) counselor.

Federal employees are required to approach their EEO office within 45 days of an adverse employment decision. Otherwise, they lose the right to sue.

A court said King waited too long, since it was clear she was informed by letter back on Feb. 27 that she would be terminated. Her case was tossed out. (Smith, et al., v. Pallman, et al., No. 10-3360, 3rd Cir., 2011)

Final note: Keep a log showing mailing dates, copies of e-mails or any other evidence proving when you told employees about important job changes.

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