Hiring decisions are tough, especially when you add the worry over whether rejected applicants may think you discriminated against them. But as long as you don’t actively conceal critical facts about whom you hired, rejected applicants have to move fast to sue. And that means employers that hire the right way don’t have to worry much about discrimination suits down the road.
A recent 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision makes it clear that rejected job applicants can’t wait years to conclude that they might have suffered race or national-origin discrimination and only then sue. Once the rejected applicants learn they weren’t hired, it’s up to them to quickly take reasonable steps to see whether discrimination was the reason.
Recent case: A group of applicants for jobs as San Francisco city transit mechanics sued about five years after they had been rejected. They claimed that they had just figured out that the agencies allegedly gave preference to Asian and Filipino applicants who didn’t meet basic job requirements.
The applicants sued under several sections of the federal Civil Rights Act that do not specify an exact statute of limitations.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the correct time limit to use was California’s one-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims. In this case, the court said the clock started running when applicants learned they had been rejected—not from the time they claimed they discovered the agency preferred Asian and Filipino applicants. (Lukovsky, et al., v. City and County of San Francisco, et al., No. 06-16665, 9th Cir., 2008)
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