Employees have many avenues to sue their employers for alleged discrimination. Most are common and have clear-cut deadlines. Some are more exotic.
Consider, for example, an employee’s right to sue over her employer’s alleged discrimination against her because of who she associates with. Here’s what happened when one worker waited more than four years to make a so-called Section 1981 civil rights claim.
Recent case: Sharon, who was married to a black man, claimed she was fired when her employer learned of the relationship. She filed Title VII claims on time, but waited more than four years after her discharge to file a civil rights claim under Section 1981, a much older civil rights law.
In 1991, Congress amended several related federal laws to establish a four-year limitation. Before that, Minnesota litigants had six years to sue.
Now a court has determined that the changes apply to Section 1981, too, effectively blocking Sharon’s lawsuit. (Powers-Potter v. Nash Finch Company, No. 14-CV-0339, DC MN, 2015)
Final note: Employers can’t do anything about statutes of limitations, but they can prepare for possible litigation. Work with your attorney to establish records retention guidelines, just in case. Don’t assume that if a fired worker doesn’t file an EEOC complaint within 300 days that the case won’t come back to bite. Section 1981, for example, doesn’t require an EEOC complaint.